Many men find themselves trying to father from a distance due to work, divorce or military deployment. Fathering from a distance can be especially trying with celebrations, plays and concerts often occurring during the week. How can dads stay connected while they are away and not feel like a third wheel upon their return?
Brian Vander Werf travels almost every week for work. Even though his girls have never known a time when their dad was home all week, it is important to him to stay connected and in the loop while he is away.
“Before I leave, I make it a point to get with each of my girls to find out what is on their calendars for the week,” says Vander Werf. “I want to know about tests, ballgames, concerts or other events that are happening. I share with them where I will be and what is happening in my world that week, and I want them to know that even though I am away, they are important to me and I care about what is happening in their world. Also, I make sure I get my hugs in before I hit the road!”
When he travels, Vander Werf stays connected via texting and evening phone calls.
“There is no question that staying connected while I am on the road can be complicated,” Vander Werf says. “My girls are older and texting seems to be one of the best solutions at the moment. I have really struggled with it because that is not my thing and not my idea of a great way to connect, but it is definitely a big part of their world so I find myself texting back and forth a lot with the two of them.”
Do his girls know they can contact him throughout the day if they needed him? “Most definitely!" he says. "They know I am in tune and paying attention. I would want to know if something was up.”
Technologically, dads have lots of options for staying connected to their children. Here are some ways you can connect:
Let your child pick out a book for you to read together at a designated time each evening.
If you won’t be able to talk while you are away, create a video before you leave for them to watch while you are away. You could even hide it and leave clues behind so they have to search for the surprise.
Record yourself reading a book and leave it under your child’s pillow.
Write and hide messages in places you know they will be found throughout the week.
Write letters to your children and include something fun or crazy in the letter.
If they have a special event, arrange for flowers, pizza or a card to be delivered that day.
“Staying connected isn’t always easy,” Vander Werf says. “However, it is absolutely worth it! Even though I am out of town, my girls know I love and care about them.”