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Parents serving in the military, the coast guard, and working in other jobs that demand staying away from home for somewhat extended periods of time, are faced with the fact that even though the family can agree and accept that it is what needs to be done, it does take a toll on the family, especially those with young children.

The parent who goes away has to miss out on their family’s special moments, stories shared on the ride home from school, or achievements in after school activities, and even emergencies. They also have to make up for lost time when they do return before they go away again.

The stay at home parent may become stressed over having to handle all of the responsibilities and duties that would otherwise be shared. This usually means sleeping less, working more and dealing with crankier kids by herself; in one word: stress.

Children tend to struggle the most, especially younger ones who don’t quite understand the concept of time yet, and therefore don’t understand their parents’ absences.  Since they have trouble verbalizing their feelings, children may become overly anxious, fearing abandonment from the other parent, sometimes causing separation anxiety. Children may also feel unloved if there is lack of contact combined with distance, and this may manifest itself into temper tantrums or troubled behaviors in order to gain attention.

Parenting alone while the other parent travels for work can be very difficult for everyone, but there are ways you can help your child ease their pain and confusion. One fun yet effective way is through PaintItOut workshops, which provide a space for children to express themselves, allowing them to release their negative emotions and feel better about themselves. This is how the workshops help:

• Their feelings are reflected back to them so they feel they are being heard and understood.

• Their canvases and works of art from the workshops become visual diaries, which they can then share with the parent who has been away helping to reconnect.

• This means of communication and contact when the parent returns is very meaningful and lets the child know that they are loved and cared for.

If your spouse is away for work and your child is irritable or clingy (or both) for “no reason”,  you can help him or her deal with the situation in a healthy way.  Just give us a call or send us an email.  And if you are feeling overwhelmed at times, it’s understandable.  Keep in mind that the workshops can help you too!

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