Staying Connected While Apart

travel how to stay connected when apart

Cherie Werner at thewerners.org

Those dreaded words, “Honey, I will be out of town next week for business.”

Business trips have a way of interrupting a good routine, mom flies solo in the parenting department, kids tend to be out of sorts while dad in sleeping in strange beds far away from his domain. Have you ever noticed that once the “master” has left the premises major appliances malfunction, car idiot lights illuminate, wireless networks stop networking and the “simple” remote control no longer controls? At least that’s how it usually rolls in our home.

Let’s face it; business travel is hard on everyone.

Earlier in our marriage, I resented Jon’s travel. Over the years, however, with better communication, honesty and intentionality, my husband and I have learned how to stay connected making our time apart more bearable and fruitful. While I don’t relish his being away I have cultivated a few habits to help us all navigate his travel interruptions.

Growing Spiritually

  • Spend time in the Word daily. More than ever, while Jon is away I need God’s perspective on life.
  • Remember God is the only one who can meet your needs. “And it is He who will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory, because of what Christ Jesus has done for us” Philippians 4:19
  • Begin and end your day with prayer. Pray for much-needed energy plus love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 Pray for your husbands as business travel usually is lonely and exhausting.
  • Cultivate a heart of gratitude. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. Proverbs 4:23 (NCV) Thus, be grateful giving thanks for your husband, his job and all that it provides.
  • Find a friend to hold you accountable for your attitude and pray with and for you.  Knowing I have someone who is praying for me and cares has been a blessing.

Growing Personally

  • Get extra rest. I sometimes go to bed when my youngest daughter does.
  • Work on your favorite projects or personal interest. (Scrapbooks, painting, blogging, reading, gardening, etc.)
  • Start or join a moms group to encourage others. The more you give, the more you receive.
  • Build a support system of friends who are willing to help you out (babysitting co-op, play groups, etc.)
  • Phone a friend. I find a meaningful conversation both stimulating and helpful to carry on solo.
  • Keep things simple. Simple in regards cooking and obligations.
  • Keep your sanity (exercise, hiring a sitter, social interaction, daily quite time).
  • Ban yourself from nagging and complaining about his travel as well as comparing his job to others. Our husbands need to feel appreciated.
  • Plan a night out with friends or something special several days after his return thereby giving you something to anticipate.

Growing Together When Apart

  • Create a travel calendar especially when dad must go for an extended time. Include outings, obligations, and a welcome home celebration.
  • Plan fun outings while dad is away. Do a local search for “monthly family outings/events” in your area. Choose a few to do (a library reading for kids, free museum days, etc.). Planning gives kids something to look forward to and keeps all occupied.
  • Have dad map out where he will be traveling to so the family can follow his travels, AKA a geography lesson.
  • Have the kiddos hide notes or pictures in his suitcase. 
  • Tuck a love note in his briefcase.
  • Encourage dad to leave behind a special token with kids. Jon has a 1922 silver dollar that he gives to the girls to take care of when he is gone.
  • Plan special events the kids can look forward to when dad travels. When my husband is away, my girls get to sleep with me. Consequently, this is something that they have to look forward to. We eat breakfast for dinner.
  • Establish a daily time for dad to connect with the kids. Jon usually will call in the morning and before Cayley goes to bed. Today with the wonders of technology you can FaceTime, Skype, text, send silly movies and pictures to each other. Jon and Cayley have various ongoing games they play together (Scrabble, Draw Something, and others).

Growing Closer When Together

  • Welcome your husband home. Warmly greet him with a hug and kiss and teach your kids to do the same.
  • Create a cheerful atmosphere when he returns home. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12
  • Ask about his trip and meetings. Jon likes when I show interest in what he does. The girls always ask him to share funny occurrences.
  • Plan a date night soon after he returns. 
  • Have a “staff meeting.” This is a tool that encompasses a weekly meeting and one soon after Jon returns to be sure we are on the same page in regards parenting goals and expectations, catching him up by sharing upcoming events, and other obligations.
  • Don’t forget that men spell love and appreciation S.E.X.

Now that we are re-experiencing parenting with our youngest daughter, it has become apparent that some things never change. Cayley cries like her sisters did ten years ago each time Jon heads out on a trip exclaiming, “Please don’t go, and “Do you really have to go daddy?” Secretly, Jon longs to hear these words as it reaffirms the special bond he has with our youngest and his desire to get back home as quickly as possible. My heart still aches with each departure but thankfully we’ve learned to stay better connected, joyful, and supportive of each other.

How do you stay connected while apart? What do you find the hardest to balance when your husband has to be away?  Which of the above suggestions might help your family stay better connected when future travel occurs?

Why Routines Are Important

Routines, why we need them

THEWERNERS.ORG

Unfortunately, the easy carefree days of summer are now behind us. Labor Day has passed and school has commenced yet again causing us to seek the elusive perfect routine.  As moms, we seek the most productive daily habits or routines to simplify not only our lives but our children also.

Routines don’t occur overnight. They need to be established and consistently evaluated and enforced. Those that work best are printed out and routinely reviewed. It’s never too late to start a routine or to revamp existing ones.  That is exactly what I find myself doing yearly around this time.

When establishing new routines, it is best to decide how you’d like to see your days flow and build a routine around that. Determine a schedule that works for your family and be as consistent as possible. I find that routines are useful during new school year transitions, the birth of a child, major life changes, etc… Given the launch of a new school year, we’ve been experimenting with the order and flow of our days and have yet to find a good rhythm but I will reevaluate weekly and tweak what I have.

Benefits of having routines:

  • Routines provide a sense of security for children allowing their lives to be more predictable.
  • Routines establish boundaries to eliminate parents from being the bad nagging taskmaster and the schedule/clock becomes the enforcer.
  • Routines eliminate potential power struggles, as children know what to do and when to do it.
  • Routines build confidence and independence in children.
  • Routines improve family relationships, because time together is scheduled and occurs more consistently, rather than just spontaneously.
  • Children tend to cooperate, as they know what is expected. I recommend having visual charts for younger children to help them cooperate.  Your children are less likely to challenge you knowing what you expect of them.
  • Routines provide consistency in our lives.
  • Routines help to eliminate anxiety. All children want to know, “what are we doing today?” or  “where are we going?” By providing visual or verbal daily routines we help ease the insistent questions and ease a child’s inquisitiveness.
  • Children tend to be happier because they have a sense of security and predictability.
  • Routines help keep order and structure in the home
  • Moms are less stressed as routines will help save time. Everyone knows what to do and when to do it.
  • Routines often help children make transitions easier as they change from one activity to another.
  • Routines allow the important tasks of life to get done. For example if exercise is important and it’s scheduled for Monday and Friday, we are more likely to do it.  By planning to exercise, I’ve made it a priority.
  • Routines promote self-governing and responsibility.  When routines are followed step-by-step and day-by-day, a child is learning habits and the character of responsibility.  As parents we need to be positive and encouraging.

It should go without saying, to incorporate a successful routine your child must know the routine.  For younger children I suggest using visual charts and enforcing the routine through consistency and verbal repetitions.  For older children, involve them when crafting out routines. Reevaluate the routines and tweak as necessary. Your children will feel more invested and empowered to follow them.

Be Flexible.  Having a routine doesn’t mean that every minute of the day is rigidly scheduled. However, you might want to consider having morning and bedtime routines.  Other routines might include chores, after school, homeschooling, or exercise.

Getting the day started is a perfect place to begin as mornings tend to set the tone for the remaining day.  Decide what time you and your family will be getting up.

Possible Morning Routines

  • Rise and shine at _________AM
  • Make bed
  • Get dressed
  • Breakfast time
  • Wash face
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Get backpack
  • Leave for school or start school at home.

Obviously, routines will differ for each family and are dependent on the ages plus the number of children.

Here is a link that provides various morning routine charts for your viewing.

Moving on to bedtime routines, remember, you run the show. So select when bedtime will be and work backwards. It doesn’t matter so much what you do but how you go about doing it. For example, are you creating a quite and tranquil environment or is the TV blaring in the background while children are wildly running around?  The best tip for good sleeping habits is to follow a nightly routine, making it easier for your child to relax and fall asleep.

Possible Bedtime Routine

  • Bedtime snack.
  • Bath time.
  • Dress in PJ’s
  • Story time
  • Bedtime- tuck child into bed, prayers, hug & kiss at ­­­­_________PM
  • Exit room.

Here is a link that provides various bedtime routine charts for your viewing.

Should infants be put on routines as early as possible? I don’t think so. Infants tell us what they need. We feed them when they’re hungry, change them when they’re wet. Over time, they learn the first step of a routine:  We sleep at night. Forcing an infant to accommodate our routine is not responsive parenting in my opinion.

Below are age appropriate chores that can easily be integrated into routines.

2-4 year olds

  • help dust
  • put napkins on table
  • help put away toys
  • put laundry in hamper
  • help feed pet

Wake Up! Daily Routines Song for Kids may help to teach concept of morning routine.  

4-7 year olds

  • set the table or help set the table
  • put away toys/things
  • help feed pets
  • water plants
  • help make bed
  • dust
  • put laundry in hamper
  • help put dishes in dishwasher
  • water the garden
  • help wipe up messes
  • help with yard work (rake with child’s rake or plant flowers, etc.)
  • help clear table
  • help put away groceries

Free printable chore charts for children ages 4-10 or you might be interested in these worksheets to reenforce what you are teaching.

8-10 year olds

  • make bed
  • water plants
  • clean room with direction
  • set the table
  • clear the table
  • dust
  • vacuum
  • care for pets
  • help make dinner
  • put laundry in hamper
  • help wash the car
  • help wash dishes
  • help load/empty dishwasher
  • rake leaves
  • take out the trash

11 year olds and older

  • watch younger siblings occasionally
  • take garbage out
  • set the table
  • clear the table
  • clean room with direction
  • put away groceries
  • clean the bathroom with direction
  • clean the kitchen
  • dust
  • vacuum
  • mow lawn
  • feed pets
  • water plants
  • put laundry in hamper
  • help with laundry and eventually start doing own laundry
  • help make dinner/make small meals on own
  • help wash the car/wash car
  • make bed
  • help with yard work
  • shovel snow
  • wash dishes/load or empty dishwasher

Here are free printable chore charts for those ages 11+.

When introducing your tween or teen to new chores be sure to explain and demonstrate the task. For example, explain why clothing needs to be sorted by color prior to washing or why they should create a grocery list prior to shopping.  Nothing is too basic to explain. Don’t talk down to them. I have to remember my job is to teach not lecture. We train them for success by demonstrating how a task is to be done correctly and then having them do it. When they do it right, be sure to reinforce their efforts with praise.

We are training and equipping our young adults at home so they can be successful later in life.  We are preparing them for life on their own.  When they handle chores at home they will be better equipped to handle a job when the time comes.

Routines are invaluable. If you’re feeling you can’t find the time to do the things you desire as a family, some new routines might help. Consider the following questions:

  • Are there activities you would like to do but aren’t doing? Can you include some of them in the family’s regular routine?
  • Would you describe your mornings as chaotic in regards to getting everyone up, fed, and out the door?  Maybe it’s time to establish a regular routine?
  • Would you describe the kid’s bedtime as peaceful and consistent with getting them into bed on time so you and hubby can enjoy some time alone?  Maybe it’s time to establish a regular or better routine?

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. Let me know if this was helpful.

Blessings,

Cherie

Helping Our Children Navigate Fears and Anxiety

anxiety or faith

Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. If fear is left unresolved, it can become detrimental.  As a mom it’s disheartening to watch a child experience fear and anxiety. A child’s fear may seem irrational but yet it tenaciously grips their soul impeding the child to think and act at times.

Fear can suddenly overwhelm and paralyze its victims as experienced by our daughter while attending her first concert to see Taylor Swift, whom she greatly admires.  I’m unsure if she was overwhelmed with excitement or the massive crowds, loud music, bright lights, screaming fans, etc. Regardless, she was gripped by a fear, which can surface at the most inopportune times resulting in guilt, loneliness and even missed opportunities.  My daughter wanted to leave a concert she had begged for months to attend. I held her hand, offered comfort and refrained from criticizing or minimizing her fear, which, in turn, helped us to stay for the duration of the event.

In the past she became anxious when faced with new or unpredictable situations. Some of her fears escalated into phobias such as flying and driving over high bridges.

Anxiety is another word for fear.  Less intense forms of anxiety are worry, apprehension, and uneasiness. Panic, distress and dread are more intensive manifestations. Fear, in response to real danger, is helpful. However, perceived fear can be destructive when the threat of pain, danger, or evil is imaginary. This is the type of fear we were dealing with.

Below are a few ways we have helped our daughter navigate her fears and even overcome many of them.  I hope this encourages you.

13 suggestions for helping children naviagate fear or anxiety

  1. Help your child to evaluate their thought process since fear usually begins with a thought, rather than circumstances.  Ask if their thoughts are positive or negative? Teach them the power of correct thinking, especially in the moment. When they dwell on uncertainties and negative possibilities, teach them to instead flood their thoughts with positive messages.  See Philippians 4:8.
  2. Recall and record how God carried them through past challenges and uncertainties. We recount events that were stressful but that she persevered through such as playing and singing in front of others, flying on recent vacation and hanging out with new friends.
  3. Evaluate and deal with possible life stressors such as a lack of routine, major changes (moves, new school), parental disharmony, world news, inappropriate media choices, etc. In our home we rarely have the TV on and don’t watch the news, as it’s typically not up lifting.
  4. Never belittle the fear as a way of trying to get your child to over come it.  Saying, “Don’t be ridiculous! Flying is safer than driving” might have gotten my daughter on the plane but it won’t make the fear vanish.
  5. Don’t give into their fears, as it will only reinforce the fear. We’ve continued to travel and fly while providing lots of support and care as we prepare her for upcoming trips.
  6. Celebrate milestones and speak life into your child. This summer we flew several times and after each trip we praised our daughter for her accomplishment. Proverbs 12:25 states “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”
  7. Educate yourself and your child about anxiety.  My daughter is better able to cope the more she understands what anxiety is and how to keep external stressors to a minimum.
  8. Memorize what God’s word says about worry, fear, anxiety, peace, etc.  Jesus commands us to avoid anxiety in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything.” In Matthew 6:25-34 we are commanded, “do not worry.”  After all, worry says, “ we don’t trust God, He is not able to care for me.”  1 John 4:18 teaches “perfect love drives out fear.”
  9. Maintain a healthy diet while getting plenty of rest along with exercise. Personally we have found this to be imperative.
  10. Incorporate various coping strategies.  Find a calm environment and take deep, slow breaths to help your body settle down, your muscles relax, and your mind to think more clearly. Take a long walk if possible. We’ve taught our daughter to rate her fear 1 (manageable) – 5 (unbearable).   Create a “tool box”. Our daughter carries a purse that contains items that she finds soothing (lavender, mints, Bible verses, music, journal, etc.)
  11. Be other focused, as acts of kindness toward others will shift one’s focus and lift their spirits, reminding them of their own blessings and encourage connection with others.
  12. Listen sympathetically and reassure them that they are normal. As trivial as a fear may seem to you, remember it feels real for your child. By allowing them to talk about it often it becomes less powerful. 1 John 4:18 teaches “perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love is expressed though being present and caring.
  13. Seek professional help if necessary but remember there are times when you know what’s best for your child so listen to the Holy Spirit.

The key to resolving fears and anxieties is faith in God which is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see according to Hebrews 11:1.

When your child is afraid or anxious what are some ways you have helped them navigate their emotions?