You are probably here because you, your spouse or both of you are going to work abroad or have already gone abroad and one of your main concerns is what to do so as your leaving does not affect your child and the relationship with him/her.
We are aware that the social, political, economic and/or natural factors can make you change the place of residence and work. The decision to go to some other country is yours and it is your right. Certainly, migration can offer more opportunities to improve the living conditions and the life of the entire family. On the other hand, however, the child experiences many changes.
The decision to work abroad is a crucial step and once you make up your mind it is critical that you prepare your child for this change and shape a distance relationship. We strongly believe that the geographical distance that temporarily separates the members of a family is not an obstacle to the communication with children.
Any change is a challenge and it takes some effort to overcome and adjust to it. Each of us has resources to cope with such changes. However, it is the timing and the ability to use these resources that makes us different from each other.
You will find here the most common questions from parents about the communication and relationship with children before and after leaving. We tried to give useful and short answers that will help you maintain and develop a sound relationship “without borders” with your children.
Although our main focus is the parents who are planning to work abroad or have already gone abroad, we believe that the information below will be useful to all the parents.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS BEFORE LEAVING
It takes courage to tell the truth.
You are on the brink of packing your things and buying a ticket. Your inner struggle – to tell or not to tell your child – just won’t go away?
What stops you from telling your child?
- Perhaps you are afraid that you will not be able to make the child understand your reasons.
- Perhaps you are afraid of your child’s reactions and emotions and you are worried that you will not be able to cope with them.
- Perhaps you are worried that your child will say „Don’t go” and then what should you do next?
- Perhaps you are wondering What can a child understand, he/she is just a child?
No matter how uncomfortable and difficult it is to tell your child that you are leaving, it is worth trying because:
- the child is a member of the family with equal rights;
- the child needs to know the truth (it is not fair to him/her to lie or postpone telling the truth until the moment you leave);
- the child will feel important and precious if the family’s future plans are discussed with him/her;
- the child will feel that his/her opinion counts;
- the child will be aware of your intention to leave and you both will get over it more easily;
- you will have time to explain your child the reasons for leaving;
- you will gain your child’s trust;
- you will prove that the safety and security of your child are important to you.
Tell your child in advance about your intention to leave. Otherwise, he/she is likely to feel unimportant, useless, guilty, abandoned or even that you don’t love him/her. This will have implications for your parent-child relationship. Your child will distance him/herself, will refuse to communicate, will no longer trust you and, in the worst case, will behave aggressively.
Don’t slink away, when your child is sleeping or out somewhere. The shock that your child will experience can harm his/her health.
When you talk to the child about your intention to leave, keep in mind the child’s age and needs. Being aware of the children’s traits and development needs at different ages (Resource 1) will help you tailor the way you communicate with them.
Talking to children…
„I want my mom to explain to me why she has to leave.”
„I told my mother to wake me up when she leaves. It doesn’t matter that I have school tomorrow. I want to tell her goodbye.”
„Every time my father comes home I ask him how long he will stay, when he is going back and if he has already bought a ticket. When I know these things, I can have an idea of what I can do for him.”
„When my mother decided to work abroad for the first time I could feel that something was wrong. Every time I asked her if she was going to leave, she denied it. I could not sleep, I was worried and I was afraid even to think that one day I will wake up and my mother will not be there. These thoughts troubled me. I took my courage in both hands and asked her to tell me the truth. She was afraid that I would do something wrong after I hear it. We hugged each other and then I understood that she needed my support”
Traits and Development Needs of Children
|0 – 3||
|3 – 7||
|7 – 11||
|11 – 14||
|14 – 18||
„The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”
What we tell our child is just as important as when we do it.
When do I talk to the child about the intention to leave?
- Long enough before you leave to help the child adapt to the change.
- When you are well informed about what you will do abroad.
- When you get clarity about your next steps.
- When you can offer the child several alternatives for who will take care of him/her after you leave.
- When you feel ready to answer your child’s questions and handle his/her first reactions.
- When your child is in a good mood and condition.
- tell your child that you intend to leave just to see his/her reaction.
- tell your child that you are leaving without a well-thought-out plan. It might be too early.
What do I tell my child?
- Speak to your child about the real reasons for choosing to work abroad. Use plain language to help the child understand.
- Explain the child in plain language the family’s needs, the satisfaction of which will benefit all of its members.
- Set a clear goal, so that all the family members feel involved in its realization.
Avoid statements like „…I have to leave for you/us to have a better future”, „…I have to leave to make a living”, „…I am leaving because I have to”, „…I have no choice, the government does not pay me”, „…to create better conditions”, „I want my children to have everything they need”, „I want to have a nice house and other nice things just like other people”.
These explanations are abstract. The child does not understand them. They don’t inspire safety and confidence.
The right message is: „We need… (specify), which will help us… , and to buy this we need … (specify the amount of money). This is why one of us has to go abroad for a better paid job”.
Talking to parents…
„Before one or both parents decide to leave, every family has to set a concrete goal. Husband and wife should decide who will go abroad to earn the money they need to achieve that goal. If a family needs a new roof, it is not a problem to tell the child „Your mother/father has to go, because we need to replace the old roof, because it leaks when it rains.”
„We have three children and we used to tell them this – We borrowed money to improve our living conditions, to buy a bathtub and a toilet. We don’t have enough money to repay the debt, so one of us has to go abroad to work.”
- Explain your children that it is not their fault that you are going abroad. Tell them that your decision has nothing to do with them.
Avoid making your child responsible for your decision to leave by making statements like: „I am leaving for your sake”, „to buy things for you …(telephone, PC etc.)”, „because you need a lot of things”. The children start thinking that they are responsible for their parents’ leaving the country and feel guilty for what their parents have to go through abroad. Some children, if their parents split up, feel guilty for the family breakup.
- Tell your child the expected date of departure.
- Give your child some details like how and where you plan to travel, the name of the town where you will live, how long the travel will last, who will meet you there, where you will live.
- Tell your child about the country and town where you are going to stay.
- If you know what kind of work you will do, tell your child about it. If you don’t, it is enough to say „I suppose things will be like that….”, „I would like to do this kind of work…, but for a start I could agree to…”.
- Ask what your child thinks: „Your mother or father is considering going abroad to work. What do you think about it? Do you agree to stay with your grandmother for a while? Or aunt/friend/uncle?”
- Show your child that you care about how he/she will get over your leaving „I love you very much, I know how you feel, I will help you get over it”.
- Tell your child that you will be back after a while and when you will be back if you know this.
- It is advisable to ask your children’s opinion. In this way you make them feel not just like children, but also like family members with right to opinion. Tell them that you care about what they think and that you will take their suggestions and advice into account.
- give information or details you are not sure about.
- make promises you are not sure you will be able to keep.
- exaggerate the benefits of your leaving, e.g. „We will be fine, you will see. Six months will pass very quickly”.
- make fun of the child, e.g. „I am leaving because you are a bad child, you refuse to help me, to study”.
- minimize the impact of your leaving on the child, e.g. „Stop it, you’ll get used to it. You’ll get over it.”
- attribute other children’s behavior to your child, e.g. „All the children are going through such experiences, you’ll be fine.”
How do I speak?
- Be calm, confident and ready to support your child.
- Give the information little by little, so that the child has time to get used to the idea that his/her mother/father or both parents will be far away and that somebody else will take care of him/her.
- Avoid being aggressive and authoritarian or showing that you have the power when you speak to your child.
Speak to your child in a friendly manner.
If you love, you have no right to give up; connect to your child’s emotions.
Telling your children that you are going to work abroad is similar to separation. They can have different reactions to it: denial, fury, sadness, fear, worry, indifference, joy.
To understand how the children feel, you should talk to other adults about your plans in their presence. Even if the children are still young, this will help them get ready for changes.
- While telling your children that you are going to leave, for a moment you will have the impression that they are not listening to you, are not attentive, think that it is a joke, do not believe you, say „No, I don’t want it!”. For a short time, they will avoid contact and conversations with you, will seclude themselves.
What to do? This reaction is called denial, accept it. Give your children time and space, but don’t lose sight of them. Get closer, try to hug or touch them gently on the shoulder. Don’t force them to understand the reasons for you leaving.
- The children might burst with anger and irritation against the leaving or staying parent, the situation, life, society, God. They might ask questions like „Why you?”, „You go to work here every day, why do you still have to go?”, „This is not fair. You cannot do this to me!”. Don’t worry if the child hits you, bites you or breaks things. He/she is angry. Some children might event hurt themselves.
What to do? Accept and understand your children’s emotions and feelings. Be there when they externalize these feelings, even if they do it inappropriately. Tell your children that how they feel matters to you, for instance „It is ok to get upset when you find out that one of your parents will be away for a longer time”. Help them articulate what they are feeling in order to prevent them from hurting themselves.
- Some children become sad. They start feeling unloved, unwanted, and abandoned. Some don’t know how to live without the parent who is leaving, don’t want anything and are not in the mood for anything.
What to do? Accept and understand your children’s sadness. Tell them that you love them and that distance will not make you love them less. Show them how important they are for you, without stressing that this is the reason for your leaving. Encourage the children to pour out their heart „I can see that you are sad…angry…”
- Some children are scared and worried, they are afraid: „What shall I do now?”, „How do I cope with…?”, „What if something happens to me?”, „What shall I do with my brothers, how do I handle it?”, „Will mother/father be ok?”, „What if mother/father is not coming back?”, „What if mother/father cannot come back home?”
What to do? Encourage the children to tell what bothers them, their fears, to pour out their heart: „I can see that you are worried”, „I can see that you are scared”. If your children open up and you talk to them about their worries, they will go away. Find together solutions to deal with the problems (specific solutions for specific situations mentioned by the child). Listen carefully and answer all their questions about how they will live without you, how you will handle it abroad.
- Some children seem to be indifferent to what parents are saying. This could be the child’s normal reaction developed as a result of a cold parent-child relationship. It can also be a defensive or rebellious reaction to hide the real emotions – anger, sadness, fury.
What to do? First of all, you cannot walk away and leave your children feeling like that. Be responsive to their nonverbal signals. Help them see things differently through calm discussions and without invading their personal space. „I am a little bit concerned about your attitude, but I admit that I was also sometimes careless about what you were telling me, your decisions, and achievements. Now I am willing to change. Let’s try to do it together. I need your support”.
- Some children might be happy to hear that their mothers/fathers will work abroad. This could be linked to the opportunity to improve the family’s financial status, for instance: „Wonderful! At last I will be able to buy nice clothes…”, „I will not be poor anymore”, „Very good! You will send me a telephone like…. has and I will be accepted by peers”. The child experiences the illusion of happiness and is not aware of the reality and the need to adapt to change.
What to do? Accept your children’s emotions as they are, without interpreting them. Try to understand what makes your children happy. If necessary, try to dissolve their exaggerated expectations and illusions. Explain the reasons for your leaving and negotiate with the children that first are the essentials and after that their desires. Say „I am glad that you don’t have a painful reaction to my intention to leave, but I want you to know that we will not be able to buy everything that you want immediately. Let’s see what we need first and buy these things one at a time”.
- taunt your children for what they feel, e.g.: „Now you start weeping? Until now you did not even care about my presence, and now you are shedding tears”.
- ask your children to explain why they feel upset, sad, angry, scared.
- make promises and tell them when you will come back, especially when you don’t have a job agreement and you don’t know when it will happen. But, make sure to tell them that you will come back.
Do not neglect your children’s feelings and emotions. Always listen to them when they want to tell you something. The children must feel that their parents care about their feelings. Once they get over these feelings, they will accept your decision to work abroad.
Signs and Reactions of Children by Age
|Age/years||0 – 3||3 -7||7 – 11||11 – 14||14 – 18|
|Signs and reactions of children||excessive crying;
refusal to eat;
lack of attention.
acting like small children;
losing interest in everything;
running away from home;
drinking alcohol; smoking.
Your children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be.
If your children say „Don’t go” immediately after they find out that you are going to leave, this is the first reaction to deny a new information and change. As a rule, children up to 10 or 11 years old verbalize this NO.
If, after some time after you explained the reason for your leaving, told them how your relationship will be in the future, discussed with them about the new experience, they keep saying „Don’t go” and crying, you should answer a couple of questions:
- Why does my child oppose it?
- Is the child too young?
- Is my child too attached to me and should I revise my plans?
- Would it be better to postpone my leaving until my child is mentally prepared for it?
- What if this refusal suggests that my child does not feel safe without me?
Sometimes the child refuses to understand why one of the parents has to go because of the pressure from parents. Then a struggle for power starts: the parent says YES, the child says NO.
- leave, despite the fact that the child did not understand you.
- tell the crying child „I am doing this for your sake”. He/she will feel guilty for this parting.
- leave if the child is not mentally prepared.
- slink, thinking that „time heals”.
- manipulate and make the child responsible for giving up leaving, like „They are waiting for me, I have found such a good job. I promised them to come and should I lose this job because of your tears?”
- „buy” the understanding of the children by making promises to meet their desires, like „You will have a lot of new things very soon. Tell me what you want your mother/father to buy for you? See, this is why I have to go and make money”, „You want that remote control car, don’t you? I cannot afford to buy it here. I will make money there and buy you that car.”
Once you have made up your mind to leave and you have your reasons, you can do it anytime. You both need time to understand each other.
What to do?
- Try to understand the reasons for denial.
- Be responsive and sensitive to your children’s feelings.
- Fix the problems one at a time, to make sure the children are protected and safe after you leave.
- Spend more time with your children; discuss, discover their interests, and meet their friends. Don’t forget to hug and speak to them with affection.
- Build the relationships with your children. A warm relationship will help you find the right words to make them accept the situation.
- The more successful you are in choosing the right words to make your children feel confident, important, safe, useful, valuable, the quicker they will accept the situation.Talking to children…
„I cried a lot when I heard that my mother decided to leave. I was 10. We were four kids and I was the second one. My elder brother who was 15 accepted it easily. I understood that I would have to take care of my youngest brothers. I felt like somebody pulled the rug from under my feet. I clung to my mother and told her with tears in my eyes that I would not let her go. She answered that in that case she would postpone her departure. And she did it. In the following three months, her wisdom and faith has changed everything. We talked a lot. She asked us who we preferred to take care of us. We chose our grandmother. Mother told me that the best thing I could do to help her was to focus on learning. We all together had discussions about how life would be after she left. Our grandmother would do the cooking, the cleaning and laundry. My father and elder brother would look after the courtyard. My duty would be to read tales to my younger brothers before they went to bed and play with them when I had free time. After some of my worries were wiped away I understood why they decided to work abroad. And there is something else. Later I understood that my mother was leaving first and that father would follow her later. So it was no tragedy”.
A safe distance relationship is based on trust and respect.
Before you leave, talk to your children to understand if they have got over their feelings and accepted the idea of you and them being together although away from each other. This is the right moment to build your distance relationship. Tell your children that a lot of things will remain unchanged – habits, discussions, advise, activities, people. They will continue going to the same nursery school/school, playing/meeting with the same children/friends, participating in the activities in which they have been involved.
Talk to your children about how you are going to keep in touch when you are away. Encourage them to make suggestions. Involve all the family members in the discussion. Choose the most efficient communication channel that would be accessible to all of you. Agree on:
- the communication channels (Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, telephone, SMS, social networks, letters);
- how often you will get in touch;
- the issues for discussion.
Encourage your children to teach grandparents how to use Skype, Viber.
Talking to children…
„I would like my parents to tell me more often that they love me”.
„I want to hear my mom’s voice and just to tell me that everything is ok”
„I want to tell my parents about my performances at school. They will be happy to hear that”.
„My father works in construction and I would like him to tell me what the people in that country are like, what is different in the construction of houses there from the houses here”.
„I want to tell my mother good night every evening”.
Tell your children that you will keep in touch with the educator/teachers/head of class to know everything what is going on at school (performances, behavior, relationships with classmates etc.) and to help them get ready for the school.
If only one parent is going to work abroad, the children’s expenses will be discussed with the parents who will be taking care of them. If both parents are leaving, the children’s expenses are discussed with the carer of the child (the legal representative of the child).
Because the younger children are not yet able to manage their spending, it is not appropriate to discuss these things with them.
On the other hand, whether one or two parents are leaving, it is advisable to raise the issue of money management with the older children. Tell them that you will send money when you have made some savings. Agree on the priorities, needs that will be met first.
Do not promise to send presents or expensive things. Do not promise to send packages every month.
If the children want something that they really need, you should discuss and assess the priority of this thing. Avoid focusing on household needs only, like „we need to build the fence”, „we need to replace the roof”, „what will people say if we let it as it is?”
Children should be given pocket money from the first year they go to school. This will make them feel independent and learn to be more responsible and how to spend it wisely. Certainly, the amount will differ depending on the children’s age.
The younger the child, the smaller the amount of money he/she should get. The children aged 6 to 8 must be taught, first of all, what money is, the value of money, and how it can be managed.
When children are 9 or 10 teach them to spend the pocket money wisely, not just on impulse, and to assess the best value for money.
The children aged 13-14 are already able to save money.
To teach the children responsibility, encourage them to answer the following questions before buying something:
- Do I really need to buy this?
- What other things could replace it?
- Are there any other offers for what I want to buy?
Agree with the parent or guardian who will be taking care of the child on the amount of money that the child will get (weekly or monthly) keeping in mind his/her needs. Don’t forget to talk to your child about this too. Estimate together with the child his/her daily expenses, so that he/she is aware of how much pocket money he/she might need.
Talk to your child about his/her role in the household chores. Keep in mind, however, that the distance relationship based on trust and respect does not mean that you should saddle your child with the responsibilities and tasks that are not appropriate for his/her age.
Be Aware That!
- Your child cannot replace you.
- There are tasks and responsibilities appropriate to the child’s age (to learn, to take care of personal belongings, to clean up the room, to make the bed, to dust and vacuum the room, to take care of the potted plants and flowers in the garden etc.).
- The child can help and support you as much as his/her maturity allows and not at the cost of his/her rights (to set and clear the table, to do the laundry, to iron and fold the laundry, to read tales to younger brothers, to take care of birds and animals).
- Keep in mind the child’s needs and feelings.
Together with the child you can make a weekly or monthly calendar with every member’s tasks and responsibilities and display it in a visible place. Don’t forget to appreciate and thank your child after he/she completes a task.
Teaching your child independence
To be healthy and balanced, parents have to let their children to become independent by developing social skills, efficient communication skills, problem or conflict solving skills and decision making skills.
You should image together a couple of situations where the child will have to fend for him/herself. Encourage your child to find solutions and make decisions. These discussions are very important.
„Let’s imagine that a friend asks you to lend him money or your tablet. What will you do?”
„You want to give a birthday party. Your dad doesn’t agree. What will you do?”
„You want to give a birthday party. What are your plans for it?”
„Your mother/father tells you to take care of your younger brothers, but you have an exam the next day. What will you do?”
Trust your children, regardless of their age; respect their opinions and dignity; involve them in making decisions. Let your children make a choice and respect their wishes.
Help your children plan their day – time for meals, time for homework and friends, time for social and family activities.
Before you leave, you should meet your child’s friends. Get to know them, show your acceptance and respect. Talk to your child about the time he/she spends with them, about how to behave when they drop by. Get the contacts of your child’s friends and/or their parents.
Appreciate – „I am happy you have such friends. There will always be someone to talk to.”, „I like your friendship with…. You get along well, don’t you?”
To be healthy, besides food and clothes, the child needs support, respect, acceptance, love and friendship.
Before one or both of you leave, make sure of a couple of things:
If only one parent leaves and the other parent will be taking care of the child:
- Assess the relationship between the child and that parent – if they get along well, their communication, how they handle problems and conflicts together.
- You should make sure that it is not an abusive or violent relationship.
- Make sure that the other parent will be able to cope with the household chores.
- Talk to the other parent if he/she will be able to cope with the physical care for the child, how and to what extent he/she will involve in the child’s school life.
- When only mother leaves, and father will not be able to give the necessary care to the child, in terms of hygiene, health, food, cleaning, ask grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law for help.
- When only father leaves, and mother will not be able to cope with the household chores (e.g. woodcutting, plowing, changing furniture), ask grandfathers, brothers, brothers-in-law for help.
- Write a list of the people or services where the parent can ask for help.
Before you leave your child with the common-law partner think twice about the following:
- Is your relationship with the child based on trust, care, protection? Is it safe?
- If the child wants to stay with him/her, necessarily file guardianship.
- If you don’t have enough trust in your partner, it is advisable that you designate a person you fully trust and with which you are sure that your child will be safe as the guardian of your child.
If both parents leave, it is important to:
- Decide who will take care of the child while you two are away.
- File the guardianship.
- Decide where the child will live – either the guardian will move to your place or the child will move to the guardian’s place.
- If the child is not expected to move, write a list of the people and services which he/she can contact to report a potential risk or abuse, emergency or accidents. Indicate clearly who can help with what. Practice together with your child calling and asking for help.
- Speak to these people and make sure they will be able to respond to the child’s request.
- Make sure the door and gate locks, the technical and electronic devices and the heating system work and pose no risk to the life and health of the child.
- If the other parent, common-law partner is very careful, considerate, and protective with your child and the child does not feel safe, is afraid, tense, you should choose another person to take care of the child.
- If the child wants and insists to stay with a certain person – try to figure out why (e.g. no rules, total freedom etc.).
Express your expectations
Let the children know your expectations concerning their behavior at home, in the society and at school.
„I know it is not going to be easy for you without me and you will need time to get used to it. It is not going to be easy for me, either. However, I want you to know that it is important for you that you go to school and study well”.
„I would like to ask you not to talk much about me, what I do, how much money I send and other things”.
„No matter what happens please be respectful to the others. Take a step back and think if the problem/conflict is worth it”.
Establish contacts with teachers
Before you leave you have to talk to the educator/head of class or the teacher your child trusts.
Discuss the potential reactions, feelings that your child might have after you leave. Tell him/her certain important things about the child, which will help him/her to better understand the feelings of the child. Tell him/her who will take care of the child and who will be the contact person. Ask if you can call him/her and agree on the timing.
Tell the headmaster that you are leaving to work abroad and the child will be taken care of by the other parent or by a trusted person/guardian.
Establish contacts with the community workers
Tell your family doctor that you are leaving and who will be taking care of your child. Ask the family doctor for help or recommendations to inform the carer about the health status and the healthcare needs of your child. Make sure the family doctor has the child’s medical records.
Inform the local guardianship authority (the mayor in rural communities), the district police officer and social worker that you are leaving and who will be taking care of your child.
„Don’t leave me with whomever you please; respect me, listen to me first!”
If both parents intend to leave, agree together with the child who will be the person who will be taking care of him/her while you are away.
- The person who will be taking care of your child should be a trusted person, have appropriate behavior, and be affectionate;
- The child and this person should know each other for quite a long time;
- The child should want to stay with this person;
- The relationship between the child, this person and this person’s children should be good;
- The child will get proper attention and care, understanding and affection;
- The person is able to discuss other issues, besides food and school.
A good relationship between the child and the trusted person is critical for the emotional wellbeing of the child. A good relationship with the carer means emotional support, encouragement, guidance, protection, safety, which will help the child to survive the negative effects of the change.
Talking to parents…
„The child has to stay with an affectionate and loving person, who will love and take care of him/her”
„I was in despair. I simply could not cover the expenses. I am divorced and have two children. Some of my co-workers used to work abroad in summer. I also wanted to go. My mother used to tell me to have patience until she would retire, so that she can take care of the children. After she retired I felt that I could leave. My children understood me and agreed to stay with their grandmother. She was wise and patient enough to get closer to them and I was sure that my children were safe with her. My mother was a grandmother, mother and friend for them.”
What is the role of the carer?
Agree with the husband/wife on the obligations of the carer and responsibilities of the child.
It is critical that you do it before you leave to avoid complains and frustrations.
For instance, agree that the carer will have the following responsibilities:
- will be responsible for the life and safety of your child when you are away;
- will take care of the child, supervise and help him/her;
- will protect the child’s health and will take care of his/her nutrition;
- will facilitate the child – parent communication;
- will buy essentials for the child (clothing, shoes, school supplies etc.);
- will provide emotional support to the child;
- will monitor the child’s school life;
- will help the child with homework;
- will talk to teachers from time to time;
- will help the child manage his/her pocket money;
- will communicate with parents on a regular basis.
The child, in turn, will commit to:
- take into account the carer’s views;
- ask the carer for help when needed;
- let the carer know when he/she goes somewhere;
- be respectful;
- help the carer with household chores.
Talking to children….
„Grandma, will you take care of me until mother comes back?”.
- Let your child know that leaving to work abroad does not relieve you of your parenting responsibilities and no matter what happens, how hard it may be, YOU are still his/her parent. However good the carer may be, he/she will not replace the parent.
- Don’t encourage your child to use in speaking to the carer the same form of address as he/she uses for you.
- Avoid encouraging the carer to believe that he/she will replace the child’s „parent”.
- Strong control, overprotection and assigning more tasks to protect the child against risks have nothing to do with supervision and care.
- Ask the carer to respect the child’s privacy and personal space. The child has the right to have secrets, a diary, and personal stuff.
- Ask the carer to meet the child’s need for emotional feelings and communication about parents. The carer should formulate his/her messages as follows: „They/he/she always think of you and pray for you. Your peace and confidence wipes away their worries. You parents/mother/father are always by your side”.
- Tell the carer to avoid justifying your leaving by the desire to make the life of the child easier. This can make the child feel guilty of parents’ leaving and suffering.
After you, your child, the trusted person and his/her children agree on the guardianship of the child, follow the steps below:
- Go to the mayor, social worker and/or children’s rights worker:
- to let them know that you are leaving and who will take care of your child – the guardian;
- ask the mayor to file the guardianship of the child;
- give your contacts (address, phone number, workplace) for the period you will be away.
- Go to the Social Assistance and Family Protection Department:
- to let them know about your leaving and who will take care of your child;
- ask for the Certificate of registration of the child who remains in the country, and whose parent/guardian, a Moldovan citizen, will temporarily work abroad.
The application package for this Certificate will include:
- the parent’s ID (copy);
- husband’s/wife’s ID (copy);
- certificate of marriage/divorce/death of one of the child’s parent (copy);
- the child’s birth certificate (copy);
- family membership certificate, issued by the local public administration authority, housing service or other institutions which manage the housing stock;
- the guardian’s ID (copy);
- the child’s birth certificate (copy).
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you“
There is a solution to any problem, however difficult it may seem. Don’t focus on the problem, don’t hide from it and don’t hide it. Focus on solutions, rather than on the problem!
One thing is for sure – you are not alone.
You can always ask for help when you feel that you cannot handle it alone. To ask for help is something natural and certainly not a sign of weakness, as it is believed.
During the preparations for the departure, there will probably be a lot of issues to deal with; you will need support and encouragement, advice and guidance. Don’t hesitate to ask the people you trust, be it relatives, friends, priest, specialists (teacher, psychologist, social worker, doctor etc.), for help. Talk to the people who have gone through similar experiences of working abroad, collect advice to be sure of your next actions.
Visit websites where you can find advice for safe employment abroad: http://nexusnet.md/, http://www.migratie.md, http://www.migratiesigura.md/.
Tell your children where they can turn for help and support after you leave. To have all the contact details of the child protection workers and institutions at hand, fill in the Resource 3 form before you leave. You can do it together with the child. Make sure that your child, his/her carer and you have this list. From time to time, update the list of names and contact details.
Before you leave, practice with your children how to ask for help. Teach them to formulate clear requests. Suggest them various situations and let them choose who to turn to. Make sure you can trust the people your children might ask for help.
You can always ask for help even when you are away. If you have the phone numbers, emails, do not hesitate and find time to do it.
If there is a problem or situation that happened at school, you can turn to a trusted teacher or to the coordinator of violence prevention, identification, reporting, referral and assistance in the education institution attended by your child.
If there is a problem or situation that has nothing to do with the education institution (e.g. in the family, street, bus, community etc.) you can turn to the local guardianship authority, i.e. the mayor, or the social worker, if the mayor is absent.
In severe and emergency cases, report to the police, emergency healthcare, local guardianship authority (mayor), and prosecution, if needed.
|RESOURCE PEOPLE/ SERVICES/ SPECIALISTS||SURNAME, NAME||PHONE NUMBER AND/OR EMAIL|
|Child Helpline||116 111|
|In your community|
|Head of class/educator/teachers|
|District police officer|
|Other trusted people|
|At district level|
|Social Assistance and Family Protection Department|
|At national level|
|Children’s Ombudsman||+373 22 234 800|
|National Council for Protection of Children’s Rights||+373 22 250 237; +373 22 250 572|
|Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family||+373 22 269 341; +373 22 269 342|
|The General Police Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs||+373 22 868 112; +373 22 868 113|
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS AFTER LEAVING
The child needs to be heard, listened to, and understood.
The child needs to feel loved, important, protected.
Communication is the „bridge” that makes the children and the parents who are away feel closer to each other. Communication requires more than just a message and an answer. Thoughts and views, emotions and feelings, needs and desires can be expressed through words, gestures, looks and mimics.
Whether you are there or away, the words are the key to the child’s world and to understanding it. Only through communication you can understand your child’s feelings and thoughts. While you are away, it is more difficult for you to create a warm atmosphere, but you can talk to your child with love and affection to make him/her feel understood, loved, protected and respected. The words articulated or written with love ease the suffering and negative emotions, nurture courage and optimism, and develop respect and confidence.
The genuine parent – child communication helps maintain a relationship based on trust, understanding, respect, honesty and mutual interest; develops healthy self-respect, resilience to obstacles, autonomy and independence. Through communication children learn how to discover themselves and the surrounding world, how to establish good relationships with others.
A good and regular communication with the children even when the parents are away helps parents and children to be present in each other’s lives and makes them feel safer about the future.
It is not the amount of time, but rather the quality of the time you spent with your children that matters. The good, wise and encouraging words, which parents tell their children, are the key to an emotionally and physically healthy personality.
Listen to your children and hear them for your and their sake!
Keep the lines of communication open.
Talk with your child whenever he/she asks. Especially during the adaptation period.
To do this, use any channel that is available: Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, telephone, SMS, e-mail, social networks or even letters.
- Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, social networks are appropriate channels for audio-video communication, file transfer, sending pictures, written messages, which make you and your child see and feel closer to each other. To use them, your child and you need to have Internet access.
- Because the mobile phone is very popular among children, it also can be used to get in touch. A short call after the classes are over or before going to bed does not take a lot of the child’s time and is a good way to show that you care.
- The e-mail is a channel to send a written message. It can be used to share messages, pictures, to help the child with homework, to receive important messages from the head of class/school about the performances, behavior, relationships of your child with others. The email can also be used to find out the school schedule, details about events, extra-school activities, innovations, or to communicate with the parents of your child’s classmates.
- Be „friends” in the virtual environment of the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Odnoklassniki etc.). This is an efficient way to supervise the children’s activities, whereas children can see their parents’ activities, the country where they work. You can communicate through the messages posted on your personal pages, comments to pictures and others.
- The letters which were replaced by new technology are not that popular anymore, but what is written cannot be deleted that easy. You can write your thoughts, describe events, or dreams. Describe circumstances, the people that you have met, positive details from your life. The child will keep this kind of letters months or even years. The letter conveys even the „smell of the parents”.
Don’t use the communication channels to:
- control your child;
- criticize your child;
- express discontent, annoyance, anger;
- embarrass your child „in public”, deliberately or not.
The child wants to get the following messages:
„I always think of you”, „I love you very much”, „ Be confident”, „Everything is possible”, „There is no issue we cannot handle together”, „I trust you”.
These kinds of messages help the children feel that they are important to their parents and that they are always in their hearts.
Talking to children…
„At the beginning we communicated through letters. Believe me I still have them. They are full of mom’s advice. There was a message for each of us. She would write that we are safe and that we should rely on our guardian angel. Every letter had some key words – „take care of each other, behave well with others, and even if someone hurts you, do not hurt back”. Mom used to write „invest in good things and you will get good things”.
„With the new technologies – Skype, Viber, Odnoklassniki – it seemed that there was no distance. We could see our mom’s face, smile, where she lives. Every evening we talked about our day”.
„I never liked physics and I used to learn it by heart just to not get bad grades. My father, who was fond of physics at school (even if he works in construction in Great Britain now), understood it and started helping me. We did homework together on Skype. At the beginning it could take us two hours and I could see that my father was tired after a hard day’s work, but he did not give up. I started to make progress and get better grades and even to like this subject. I have to thank my father for this small achievement of mine.”
„It is all due to my parents that I have university degree, I am master of sports, I have goals, and I know what I want to achieve. Mother was the one who supported me through difficult times and when I wanted to give up training. She would listen to me carefully and after that tell me what she thought about what had happened and let me choose myself what to do. Father was not very talkative, but his words were like gold for me – the right words at the right time, which encouraged and supported my choices. He used to say – Only this far can you go? If not, keep going until you think you cannot anymore and see if you can cross those limits too”.
The communication channels have been invented by people to help distance communication. However, the principles of efficient parent-child communication are the same, whether one uses these channels or not.
„A loving word appreciates so much, but costs so little”
The quality of communication depends on the inputs of all parties.
While talking to your child, avoid the negative habits, which affect the parent-child relationship.
- Avoid telling your child about your debts, the sacrifices you make, how much you have to work or about survival. By involving the child in the adults’ problems we only stress the child and bring uncertainty in his/her life.
- Don’t generalize, don’t reproach the child for his/her behavior that bothers you, e.g.: „you always…”, „you never…”, „…you don’t want to study, or help me with household chores, you do nothing at all!”.
- Don’t criticize your child, e.g.: „You are a sluggard!”, „You have no shame!”
- Don’t shout or raise voice to make yourself heard.
- Don’t blame, offend or embarrass, threaten or humiliate the child, especially in public, e.g.: „You never pick up when I call. Why have I bought that cell phone?” „ I am tired of you!”, „If you keep acting like that, what good is coming back home for me, and hearing from all the people that you have done that shameful thing”.
- Avoid making sarcastic statements, e.g.: „…even you could have done it. Not a big deal!”
- Don’t think of your personal needs while your child is telling you something.
- Don’t interrupt the child, let him/her finish what he/she has to say, e.g.: „Stop it, you’ll be fine. You better tell me what you did …”. By doing this, you show that you are less interested in his/her life.
- Don’t be pushy, when you speak to your child, especially when he/she wants to disclose you something. Wait patiently until the child feels that it is the right time to say it.
- Don’t criticize the child’s choices, including friends, clothes, haircut, and music preferences. You can communicate that certain choices are not appropriate or even dangerous by making suggestions and asking questions carefully and lovingly and if you put good reasons forward the child will understand.
Replicate the good habits in the communication with the children using five key verbs: be, feel, see, speak and listen.
Stay connected and open
- Agree with the child on the time and place when and where he/she will feel comfortable to speak.
- Use words and gestures that encourage the child to say more and show that you understand him/her.
- Try to listen what your child is saying, without letting other things distract you.
- Show interest in what is happening to your child and what he/she wants.
- Be respectful and patient.
Be sympathetic and responsive
- Children, regardless of the situation they are going through, will cooperate if they feel understood.
- Be patient and give the child enough time to say what he/she has to say.
- Be reliable and show that you can keep a secret.
- Demonstrate careful, respectful and loving attitude.
- Accept the child, without judging.
- Have the courage to accept the child’s reactions and behaviors, even if you don’t like them.
Be an observer
- When you communicate with the child on Skype, try to notice, not just listen.
- Pay attention to the child’s facial expression and gestures, posture and looks.
- Try to understand what has been left unspoken; observe the child’s feelings and emotions.
- Discover the real emotions hidden behind what the child is telling you.
- If you notice something, do not be pushy.
- Turn your thoughts and emotions into clear words so that your child understands what you are trying to say.
- Send plain, clear and specific messages, rather than difficult, abstract or general ones.
- Ask questions one by one and wait for answers.
- Don’t ask many questions at once, because you will confuse your child who will not know which question to answer and will feel like being interrogated.
- If you have several children, talk to each of them, even if they are very young.
- Children need to feel that parents are listening to them, but this does not necessarily mean long discussions several times a day.
- Listen carefully and do your best to remember what your child is telling you.
- Restate what has been said to prove that you have understood.
- Ask questions to specify certain things or to better understand what your child is saying.
- Encourage, support the child with words and deeds.
What does a child expect to hear from parents?
Talking to children…
„To discuss with us our problems, health issues, about everything else.”
„To tell us something that will send away our worries about them.”
„About our problems at school, in the society, in the locality.”
„About our personal issues.”
„Certain secrets that we cannot share with anybody else.”
„To tell us what it is like where they are.”
Even if it costs you everything, gain the understanding of the child.
Children are not grownups. Parents often forget that and have too high expectations from them, putting too many burdens on their shoulders, which they are not able to handle. Children, just like grownups, have their own problems, emotions, feelings, experiences. It is the duty of parents, be they present or away, to understand what is happening to their children.
4 magic questions
- What does the child feel?
Emotions are for children as breathing is for you. Their reactions and behavior externalize their inner world. If you want to understand your child, remember to ask yourself as often as possible what he/she feels and seek answers.
- What does the child want to tell me?
Some children can express their thoughts, emotions. Others hide them. Some children have a limited vocabulary, others don’t know how to articulate what they feel, find it more difficult to get over the painful separation from the parent and develop inappropriate/problematic reactions or behaviors (refusal to communicate; unexcused absence from school; running away from home; risk behaviors). Parents wonder Why?
Because the child has a message for you and is sending out a signal to you. It is the time to explore what upsets him/her.
There is a reason for any exaggerated and especially systematic behavior. It may be a repressed emotion or an unsatisfied hidden need.
Avoid asking „Why are you doing that?”. You will get no answer, because most of the times the child is not aware of the reason of his/her behavior. If you insist, he/she may feel compelled to give you an answer and will find a reason, which is unlikely to be the real one.
- What do I want to communicate to my child?
Every time when you don’t understand your child’s behavior you can choose between the messages, which express love „I love you” and the destructive messages „You always do the wrong things, you are not good for anything, and you don’t deserve it”. Most often parents get angry not because they don’t love their children and wish bad for them, but rather because they don’t know how to manage a situation and their feelings. Nervousness and stress block their ability to keep calm and have a constructive and mutually beneficial approach.
After you understand what your child feels, what triggers his/her reactions or behaviors you would probably like to fix the things that went wrong. Threats, criticism and blame do not work. Try to see the good side of your child’s actions and encourage him/her to figure out where he/she can use it, e.g. „You are very resourceful, what a nice dress you have made out of the curtains. I appreciate your ideas. I’d prefer you to ask for my advice next time and we will use other fabrics instead of curtains. By the way, why don’t you attend a center for kids where you could demonstrate your skills?”
This message tells the child that you respect his/her need for expression, while also suggesting that he/she should not destroy things.
- Why am I doing it?
Before giving instructions to your child, forbidding or refusing the child, which makes him/her feel that you don’t understand him/her, ask yourself: „Why am I doing it? What makes me accept or refuse my child’s request? What makes me have this attitude? Is it the social norms, my education, the traditional reactions of many parents, convenience or common sense? Will the answer that I will give my child be appropriate?”
Talking to parents…
„I have never told my child about my problems, the difficulties I have faced. Every time we got in touch I tried to look good, smile, and give the impression that I am ok. I don’t want to share with them and put on their shoulders my hardships.”
„I’ve noticed that our children are more willing to communicate if we praise them and tell them how much we love them.“
„When my child, who is a teenager already, complains that I don’t understand him, I tell him – I can see that you are angry. Help me understand what is happening. Tell me why you feel like I am treating you as a child? And then I listen to him without interrupting.”
If your children are not willing to answer your questions, try another approach. For instance, instead of asking them what they did on that day, tell them what you did and see if they react. Or, if you want to find out what the children think about a situation, ask questions that are not directly related to them. Ask, for instance, what their friends think about it and what advice your children would give to those friends.
Examples of messages and questions that open up the communication with the child:
- „You will stay angry and upset if you choose to keep quiet. Instead, you could tell me or write to me what is bothering you”.
- „I think that M. is very demanding with you. I suppose you find it difficult to cope with her claims. If you told me certain things at least I would know how I can help you”.
- „What do your friends think about it? What about your teacher?”
- „What could we do in your view to handle it?”
- „You wrote to me about the situation X, it is not easy for you. Have you thought already what to do or you would like to talk about that?”
- „You don’t look excited… Do you think it is better to choose doing something else?”
„Did anything happen during the … class? One of your classmates posted on Facebook that she was very angry… ”
Words are the key to the door that closes after you leave.
How does my child feel after I leave?
No matter how positive the parent-child relationship may be, the distance and the separation for an indefinite time affect this relationship. Most children have this feeling of emptiness. For some it is more painful, for other less. The range of emotions that children can feel includes regret, anxiety, lack of confidence, despair, fear, loneliness, guilt, the feeling of meaninglessness. Only care, love, warmth, support, encouragement heal that pain. Without these things, the pain will never go away.
How and what do I tell my child to help him/her get over my leaving?
- Try to keep calm.
- Communicate every day or even twice a day if the child needs it.
- Keep your promises and commitments. If you forget to call on the agreed day and time or if you missed the „meeting” on Skype, the child will become sad and worried.
- Show your child that you understand his/her feelings and emotions. Accept his/her feelings, don’t deny them.
- Listen carefully! Try to figure out what is really bothering the child.
- Summarize from time to time your child’s message to show him/her that you have understood it: „You want to say that you don’t feel like going to school, that you are still sad. Haven’t you got used to your aunt X yet? ”, „If I understand correctly, you are worried that you will not cope with your homework after we leave…? ”.
- Speak to your child in a calm and confident manner.
- Keep reminding the child that the change that has happened does not mean rupture.
- Encourage the child to continue doing his/her daily activities.
- Encourage the child to keep in touch with his/her friends.
- Help the child to handle the home issues, manage conflicts with brothers, with the parent or guardian who is taking care of him/her.
- Help the child with homework.
- Help your child plan his/her day, make certain decisions.
- Share your child’s smallest joys, even if they seem unimportant to you.
- Be there for your child when he/she is facing small troubles, such as a bad grade, quarrel with a friend etc.
- Avoid calming the child down by reminding him/her that you have left for his/her sake and for a better future.
- Tell the child that you always think about him/her and love him/her unconditionally, regardless of his/her behavior or performances at school.
How to make children put feelings into words?
Often, when the child experiences intense feelings (fury, sadness or annoyance) we want these feelings to disappear as soon as possible or better never to exist. Even adults find it difficult sometimes to manage the negative feelings.
Avoid handling the situation instead of your child; don’t try to make him/her not feel what he/she does feel.
Better let your children learn that they are able to manage their emotions. The first thing you have to do is to identify the children’s emotions, give them a name, let them understand that you feel, see, and understand what emotions they are experiencing. Also, help your children to find the right solution and be confident that they will cope with it. In this way you will encourage your children to express their feelings and they will learn how to manage their emotions constructively.
- „When you tell me how you feel, I am happy to understand and help you.“
- „You’re upset, aren’t you? If you tell me why I can understand you better.”
- „It is good that you have told me what makes you happy. I will surprise you more often.”
- „I understand that you’re facing a lot of difficulties and you feel like you cannot handle them…”
- „I think you felt offended when your friends laughed at you?”
- „I think I know what is bothering you…”
- „You’re disappointed because ……?”
- „You’re sad because …..?”
- „However painful it may be, you can tell me.”
- „You felt like that because it hurt you when you fell?”
- „I understand that you’re sad and crying. It is natural to be sad when you lose something that you liked so much. And your weeping means that it was really important to you.”
How do I realize that my child has or has not got over my leaving yet?
HOW TO BUILD HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM IN CHILDREN?
Healthy self-esteem or self-respect is the power which helps you cope with life’s challenges.
Signs of good self-esteem
Signs of low or fragile self-esteem
Building self-esteem takes time and one needs a lot of patience and tact to help children have a healthy self-esteem, which will help them have a strong and independent personality when they grow up.
What can you do? Many things.
- Show your child that you trust him/her, asking for his/her input and help with certain tasks, which are challenging but not impossible to do for the child.
- Assign age-appropriate tasks to your child. These tasks will make the child feel capable.
- Involve the child in decision making. Don’t make decisions for your child, just because you believe that grownups know better what to do.
- Encourage the child even when he/she makes mistakes. Replace failure with lessons learned. Explain the child that a failure does not have to be a disappointment and that he/she needs experience to overcome a failure.
- Talk to the child about what he/she wants to do or achieve. Help him/her set real goals and an action plan. Guide him/her to achieve the goals.
- Turn a problem into a solution. Encourage the child to find at least two solutions to the problem. Instead of „You stopped making your bed after I left, didn’t you?” it is better to ask „What can remind you to make the bed tomorrow?”
- Encourage the child to tell his/her point of view or opinion. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate the conversation. „How did you handle the issue with … ?”, „What is happening at school?”, „How is your friend who is raised by the grandmother?”, „Tell me about…”
- Talk to the child about your personal experiences similar to his/hers. Tell the child what you felt, how you handled with that issue and what you learned from that experience.
- Be spontaneous and affectionate.Tell the child how proud you are of him/her when you see the efforts he/she is making, despite earlier failures.
- Praise the child honestly; don’t exaggerate. A child with low self-confidence will need more attention, appreciation and praise. The self-confident child does not need it so much; otherwise, too much praise can make the child treat others with arrogance and contempt.
- Be a positive role model. If you, as a father or mother, are very demanding of yourself, negative and unrealistic about your limits and skills, you child will be your mirror. If you want your child to have a good self-esteem, cultivate your own self-esteem.
Positive things to say to the child:
HOW TO DISCIPLINE THE CHILD WHEN YOU ARE AWAY?
No child will be able to keep up with parents’ expectations, if they keep punishing him/her. By constantly scolding, criticizing and attributing negative labels to the children, you will make them see only their shortcomings and mistakes and they will be unaware of their strengths. To learn that they are capable of doing something and can succeed, the children need attention and positive messages from parents.
Discipline does not mean punishment.
- Disciplining the children means helping them to grow up and develop emotionally and socially balanced and healthy.
- The secret of discipline lies in focusing on the behaviors that the children should have.
- The efficient discipline strategy teaches children positive behaviors, instead of making them follow the rules set by adults.
- Being away is not a reason to not involve in teaching children discipline.
Other behaviors DO NOT mean disciplining:
- The attempt to discipline children, make them dutiful by buying presents and making certain promises is not the right way to develop respectful behavior. Children will always want more, while you will lose your parental authority. Children will try to manipulate you to get their desires satisfied.
- The refusal to give presents and other necessary things as a punishment does not help at all discipline and make the children learn the rules of conduct. On the contrary, it makes the children rebellious and negativist.
- Giving children all they need does not cure the feeling of guilt in parents.
- Overindulgence does not mean love, but rather the inability to discipline children. The children who are used to get all of their desires satisfied find it very difficult to live without them.
- Avoid „hunting” your child’s mistakes! Stop thinking that to make children change their behavior, they have to feel guilty or humiliated.
- Refusal to communicate, to listen, to try to understand what has happened with the intent to punish children, makes them helpless.
- Threats, violent language, insulting and telling children that they are not good at anything will not change their unwanted behavior, but will rather make them feel worth nothing.
- Punishing children for what you feel makes them feel guilty, e.g.: „You are a bad child, you make me feel bad”.
- Constant criticism and cruel comments make the children feel that they are not loved.
- Avoid questions like „Why do you behave like that?”, because while you want to hear the reason of such behavior, the children see the question „why” as judgment or criticism.
- Avoid punishing children by stopping surprising them pleasantly on holidays.
How to discipline your child:
- Start with the assumption that children can behave decently and responsibly if they want to.
- Help children to do what is good and make good choices.
- Set clear age-appropriate rules and limits, all the family members/guardian have to be aware of and follow.
- For younger children there must be a predictable schedule and limits.
- Formulate precise statements when you talk to younger children. Explain them in plain language what they may and may not do, e.g.: „You may play with your toys in the bedroom, because toys also like having their own place. The kitchen is for cooking and dining. If you bring your toys to the kitchen they could get dirty”.
- The children aged 7 to 11 respond well when they are given several options to choose from. Formulate together the rules; identify the consequences of breaking the rules, for instance: „There is a place for clothes in the closet. If you don’t organize your clothes, you will not be able to find what you need and you will get upset or you will find it dirty and will get angry”.
- In case of teenagers, make sure that the rules concern homework, visits to friends, the time to be back home, meetings. Discuss these rules in advance to avoid any misunderstandings.
- It is important to give teenagers some degree of freedom and control of their own life.
- Convey positive messages for following the rules: verbal appreciations/praise, more free time, certain privileges, etc.
- For breaking the rules, convey negative messages: reduce the time with friends, for playing video games, removal of certain privileges etc. The consequences should come immediately after the behavior.
- The rules and consequences of following/breaking them have to be negotiated with children.
- To clarify a misbehavior, instead of labeling children „you are useless”, you should better ask „What happened?”, „How did it happen?”, „How do you feel about it?”
When children break a rule or a problem occurs:
- Focus on that situation. Talk about what is bothering you in that moment without referring to past behaviors. „You started smoking and I would like to talk to you about it.”
- Tell children how their behaviors, both positive and negative, make you feel. For instance: „I talked to the head of class and she told me that you have been late for school lately. I am worried about that. I want you to understand that I don’t agree with it”, „I am very much worried that you started smoking. I understand this is something interesting for teenagers and that you have grown up, but I would like you to find another way to assert yourself among peers. You have all you need for this”, „I am proud that despite distance you handle it and that you can focus on studying”.
- Make sure the children understand your message. „What do you think about it?”, „Is there anything you want to say about it?” If the children do not understand you, keep calm and explain again using other words.
- Agree with children on the following steps to handle the issue or correct the children’s actions.
INVOLVING IN YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL LIFE
Distance does not relieve you from the responsibility to monitor your child’s school activity. School is where children spend most of their time. Don’t forget that learning is children’s main activity.
What to do?
- Find out what are the teacher’s expectations
Try to find out what are the teacher’s expectations for homework. Stay in touch with the child’s teachers to know about your child’s performances, potential issues or difficulties.
- Check out the school curriculum
Ask your children about the subjects they study, who are their teachers, how many classes they have per day, when they have breaks. It would be good to know the school timetable. Ask your children at what subjects they are good and at what subjects they are having difficulties.
- Identify the children’s needs
Make sure that you meet all your children’s school-related needs. In the case of younger children, the other parent or guardian is responsible for it, while the older children can buy what they need on their own.
- Discover the children’s interests
Find out your children’s hobbies, what other activities they are fond of: sport, drawing, dancing, music, theatre, and public speaking etc., what foreign languages they would like to learn. Find out if there are any extracurricular activities at school or what are the offers of the nearby children centers.
- Together with the children draft a homework plan
Children need to understand that doing homework is important. Help them set a homework time and stick to it.
- Help the children with homework
For the younger children it is important that they do some of their homework together with the parents. Ask your children what home assignments they want you to do together, for instance, by Skype. Set the time when you are available and tell the children how much time you can spend to do this. This will also mobilize the children.
- Participate in projects
Encourage the children to get involved in extra-school activities. Support their ideas, stimulate their resourcefulness, and suggest ideas.
- Spend your free time together
It will sound trite, but you can have fun together even if you are away. You can invent all kinds of games or you can recall the games you played when you were a child, such as the word game (countries, towns, mountains, waters, plants, animals, names) to make you stay connected. You can play football or other interactive games online with older children, which will put you in direct contact with each other. There are also websites offering a variety of information from suggestions for homework to recipes.
INVOLVING IN YOUR CHILD’S SOCIAL LIFE?
- Encourage the child’s decisions
Contribute as much as possible to the decisions concerning the child. You have to support the decisions made by the parent or guardian who is taking care of your child. Discuss the disagreements in a private conversation.
- Be aware of your child’s daily life
Check it out about various things in your children’s life. Start discussions about their friends, common activities with friends, how they handle the chores, what events are taking place that are important to them, what are the relationships with the closest people etc. Share your feelings, mainly the positive ones, with them. Tell them about your past experiences and relationships, visits and trips, the news you have learned.
- „How did you sleep last night?”
- „How are your friends doing?”
- „How do you get along with…?”
- „What do you think we should do about it?”
- „What do you think about…?”
- „You look tired. You were supposed to deal with the issue today, weren’t you? How was it?”
- „How was the performance? What bands played?”
- „What are your week-end plans?”
- Support and encourage your child’s involvement in the community
Encourage your children to become volunteers, members of youth nongovernmental organizations, start projects to contribute to community development. Let them know that you will help them, including with resources. If your children want to feel active, important in the community, be there for them.
- Develop together
Read and discuss books, magazines, new information, and watch and discuss the movies that your children like. Recommend them books, movies, music that the children/teenagers in the country where you work like. Discuss together what you did and did not like from what you have read, seen or heard. This will give you the opportunity to understand what is bothering, frightening your children or what they like.
Do not forget that distance can be overcome. You just have to be there in the universe of you children and they will know that you understand, help and love them.
Do not lie; do not dodge the questions; use plain language to tell the truth.
Death, divorce and sexuality are sensitive issues.
- How to talk to kids about death?
This issue is commonly raised by small children aged 3/4 to 7/8. Explain them death in simple terms as something very natural, using easy to understand examples from nature, like for instance the lifecycle of a plant: „Just like the flowers in a vase wither, so do people die of old age”. With older children be more specific: „When somebody dies, the body stops working. He/she stops breathing, eating and speaking”.
Depending on your faith, you can tell your child important things about Afterlife. It is important to explain what the burial ritual is about.
- When, how and what to tell children about divorce?
These discussions should preferably take place before the separation. Not on the phone or Skype. If possible, it is recommended that both parents are present and involve in the discussion, without blaming each other in front of the child and avoiding outbursts of aggressiveness and violence. These rules are also applicable when one of the parents cannot be present during discussions.
Tell your children that your love for them will not disappear after divorce.
Explain the child that divorce is when the husband and wife break apart and will no longer be a couple, but they will continue to be his/her parents. Explain that you separated not because you went to work abroad and that divorce may occur even in couples where parents do not work abroad.
Try to be frank to your children and encourage them to ask questions, so you can make sure that there will be no misunderstanding.
Do not forget to make sure that your children understand what you are saying.
Tell your children how you feel and encourage them to do the same. Help them identify their feelings. Tell them that feelings are fleeting and that their sadness and fear will soon go away.
Explain your children what will happen after the breakup, tell them about the inevitable changes. Ask what they think about it. Agree together on certain issues for the future.
Divorce does not mean separation from the child.
- Talks about sexuality
„To talk to the child about sexuality means to talk about genuine human relationships and healthy intimate relations. The aim is to help the emotional development of the children, so as they begin their sex life in a secure framework created by a love relationship”
You should start by telling your children the proper names for body parts. When you teach your kids that they have a head, eyes, hands, tummy, don’t forget that there is some other part of the body that we call intimate part. Tell them that the intimate part is covered with panties and nobody, but their mothers or doctors, can touch them or take their panties off.
As the children grow up, you will discuss and give explanations about the differences between girls and boys, menstruation and pollution, abstinence as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
For instance: „I trust you and I know that you have understood what we have talked about, because you are already big and I feel that we can talk about anything. When you have questions of any kind, I would like you to ask me, ok?”
Talk to your children about the changes during puberty. Tell them that the changes that are going to happen to their bodies are natural and you will be always there for them and help them through.
Mothers should talk to their daughters about menstruation, its purpose, hygiene, what to do in problematic cases (severe pain, menstrual disorders, heavy bleeding).
Fathers, in turn, should tell their sons about nocturnal emissions, their purpose, and hygiene.
If one of the parents is missing for whatever reason, the parent who is taking care of the child has to take heart and speak to the child regardless of the child’s sex.
What is the most important thing when you talk to your child about sex?
- Have the courage to talk about sex in a positive manner and make a clear and constructive link to marriage, family, love and a healthy and solid relationship.
- Tell your child about the risks of early sexual activity both for girls and boys.
- Help your child learn the skills to cope with the peer and mass media pressure, to resist manipulation.
- Be sensitive and respectful to the teen’s „first love” feelings. First love is everything for him/her – the beginning and the end of the world! This is a chance for you to get closer to your child.
- If there are physiological or anatomical issues that you don’t know how to explain, inform yourself! There are plenty of videos, information and advice in Internet that help you find the right words when you speak to your child.
What to do if your child is already sexually active?
Don’t give up! It is never too late to have an open and positive communication about sexuality with your child. If you believe that it is better to wait for true love and a stable relationship before starting the sex life, go on with it, even if your child has already had a sexual experience. Don’t give up trying to save your children from what you think is bad for them; it is part of your parenting role. Stay positive. Tell your children that you love them, but you are just concerned and worried about some things that they do and you want to help them to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
What to do if my child is in an abusive relationship?
The teenagers’ first romantic feelings are for people either of the same age or older. Adolescence is full of games and attempts, pleasant undertakings. The teenagers, who have intense feelings, often mistake the abuse for „butterflies in the stomach”. This is why teenagers and parents should be able to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, which in the future might lead to violence.
Signs to look for in an abusive personality: The abusive person will:
- Buy gifts and say: „You are the most beautiful/smartest girl. I cannot live without you. You are my everything.”
- Try to isolate the partner from relatives and friends: „How can you meet with them? You are out of their league… They are against our relationship… We don’t need anybody…”
- Be jealous: „You are beautiful enough for me. Why do wear makeup? Who are you trying to seduce…?”
- Control. The abusive person will ask the partner to spend time only with him/her, to wear a certain style of clothing, questions what the partner does, how the partner behaves, the partners’ relationships, expenses.
- Be violent with no reason claiming „You make me go crazy… When we get married I will change…”
- Insist to have sex with the partner as soon as possible, hoping to keep the partner close, even if the latter thinks that it is too early and she/he is not ready for it.
- Criticize, talk bad about his/her ex-partners, will have too high expectations from the current partner.
- Think the whole world revolves around him/her and will not care about others’ desires/opinions.
- Play the victim and will always blame others. It is never his/her fault. If he/she gets in trouble at work, it’s someone else’s fault.
If your children tell you about some of these signs:
- Have a careful, calm discussion and find out what they think about these behaviors.
- Let them know that this is an abusive relationship, in which they are victims of control, power, manipulation and this may lead to violence.
- Encourage them to break up with the abusive partners. Be supportive and sympathetic.
It is the duty of every citizen to know what violence is and how it occurs.
Violence against children is any form of ill-treatment by parents/legal representatives/ caregiver or by any other person, that is life-threatening or can result in harming the child’s health, threatens his/her development, dignity or moral health. There are several types of violence: physical, psychological and sexual.
Physical violence is the intentional infliction of physical suffering by kicking, punching, shoving, pulling hair, stinging, and burning, strangling, biting, poisoning, intoxicating or other similar actions.
Psychological violence is imposing the will or personal control, by causing tension and mental suffering including ridiculing, swearing, insulting, derogatory nicknaming; blackmailing; the intentional destruction of objects; verbal threats; the demonstrative showing of fire arms or hitting domestic animals; imposing isolation by detention, including detention in the family dwelling; isolation from the family, community, friends; prohibiting professional accomplishment; prohibiting attendance at educational institutions; seizure of identity documents; deprivation of access to information; or other similar actions.
Sexual violence is any violence of a sexual character or any illegal sexual conduct; sexual harassment; any unwanted, imposed sexual conduct; forced prostitution; any illegal sexual conduct with a minor family member, including fondling, kissing, setting the child into poses or other unwanted touching with sexual connotations; or other similar actions.
Child neglect is failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, physical integrity, physical and mental health are threatened with harm.
Be an informed parent:
Your task as a parent is to:
- be responsive to the signals and messages your child sends about not feeling safe;
- teach your child to identify the signs of an abusive relationship between the parent who is taking care of the child and the child, between guardian and the child, between children (brothers/sisters, with other children, at school), between the teacher and the child, between two friends/lovers;
- teach your child what to do and to whom to speak.
Signs of child abuse:
What to do?
- If possible, come back home and try to deal with the problem.
If it is not possible to come back home, get in touch with the head of class, social worker, local police officer or the family doctor, the mayor and tell them about what is going on.
„Resolving conflict is rarely about who is right.
It is about acknowledgment and appreciation of differences.”
Conflict is part of everyday life. It involves disagreement between two or more parties and deepens because of inappropriate communication. Conflicts are more common with teenagers, who want more autonomy, independence, freedom, while parents are not always ready for this challenge.
The distance parent-child relationship is also prone to conflicts. Before looking for solutions to handle the conflict with your child, ask yourself if you want to win, if you want your child to win or you want to find a win-win solution.
Depending on your answer, you can choose one of the following strategies of dealing with the conflict:
You show your child that you are ready to do whatever he/she wants just “for him/her to be happy”. This is the wrong decision. If you go on like this, your child might become a little tyrant and will manipulate you to get what he/she wants. And then you will have no say!
- Fighting or competing
You don’t concede to your child’s demands. You think that you are always rights, because you are the mother/father, and he/she is the child and not vice versa. You will win that conflict. Some children will become avoidant, inhibited, obedient and submissive. Others will become rebellious always fighting the „tyrant” and taking this discontent through to their adult life.
You do nothing, take no actions, do not confront the conflict and avoid making a decision. This strategy is useful just to „cool down”. If you keep avoiding conflicts you will make your child think that you don’t care about your relationship and distance him/herself.
Compromising is when both you and your child take a step back and seek the alternative that equally satisfies both parties.
- Collaborating or the „win-win” approach
The win-win approach satisfies you and your child, while also allowing for maintaining a good relationship. There is no „me against you” and „you against me”.
The steps in efficient distance cooperation
- Use video communication channels.
- Identify the roots of the conflict, your child’s needs and yours. Listen carefully to what your child is telling you, find out how your child feels. When you define the problem, be careful not to blame or judge. For instance: „I know you like playing video games, but I also like when the room is clean”.
- Suggest possible solutions. Suggest your child „Let’s see what solutions are there…” or „what can we do?”. Write down both of you all the ideas. First try to listen to your child’s suggestions. Don’t evaluate, don’t judge or minimize any of the child’s solutions. Don’t even say that a certain solution is good, because this would mean that the other solutions are not that good.
- Assess the alternative solutions. Highlight the solutions agreed by both of you and delete the ones you both don’t like, while the ones under question may be considered at the end.
- Choose the most acceptable solutions. Don’t think of it as the final solution that cannot be revised anymore. You could say for instance „Ok, let’s try it and see if it works” or „I can agree to it, are you ready to try it?”
- Apply the solution. After you both agreed on what to do, ask yourselves: „Who does what? Until when?” or „Why do we need it?”, „How often?”
- Check the results. The chosen solution will not necessarily be the best one. Therefore, you should check from time to time together with your child if he/she is happy with it.
When your child has a conflict with other children, be it brothers, guardian’s children or a classmate, your duty is to teach him/her to deal with it in a constructive manner. Being away it is difficult to deal with a conflict without taking somebody’s side, but it is possible to help your child handle a conflict. Teach your child to use the above-mentioned strategies.
What can you do?
- Detach yourself emotionally.
- Help your child cool down; recommend him/her to take a few deep breaths.
- Listen carefully what the child has to say about the conflict. Find out the reasons that made the conflict burst out.
- Identify the child’s needs.
- Avoid criticizing or judging your child if you feel that he/she was not right, while also avoiding fully taking the child’s side and criticizing the other one.
- Choose the most appropriate alternative:
- If things are clear to you, talk to your child about the potential solutions; choose together the best one; formulate and practice the messages the child will tell the other person; tell your child that he/she will succeed.
- If the situation is not clear, difficult, tell your child that you will talk to other people to better understand what has happened. If the child has a conflict with his/her classmates, talk to the head of the class, possibly with the parents. After you do it, choose the most appropriate strategy to act.
- If the conflict is between your children, let each of them say how they feel, why the conflict started, what they really want (find out the need). Encourage them to tell their opinions. Help them understand that this conflict is a problem of all the parties to it and that they can handle it only if they agree to cooperate. Seek together for the solutions that satisfy everyone’s needs. Agree on an action plan. Help your children put the plan into action. Don’t forget to appreciate the children’s efforts and involvement.
- If the situation has an element of violence, aggressiveness, recommend the child to avoid such situations and ask for help.
- Sometimes it is good not to pay too much attention to the conflict between children and let them handle it on their own, but not before you teach them how to do it. This way they will develop the skills for dealing with the conflicts in a constructive manner. Otherwise they will keep asking for your help every time they have a conflict, even if it is small.
Wisdom and humanity help build trust.
The person who is taking care of the child, be it the other parent, or the guardian, is in direct contact with the child, sees the child in the morning, in the evening, accompanies the child to school and back. This person deserves first of all respect for the courage to be there for the child and for taking care of him/her.
To stay in touch with the other parent or with the guardian, use the same communication channels (see Question 10).
The discussions about the child should build around the assumption that a child is a child in any situation, and the adult is the one who teaches, guides, monitors, and tells the child how to do things right. Children learn their behaviors from adults first of all.
There are several critical issues you have to know about your child:
- Physical and emotional health;
- Relationships with others (brothers, fellows, colleagues, adults);
- Daily routine (rest, meals, hygiene, attendance of nursery school/school, leisure);
- Children’s rights and needs.
When talking to the other parent or guardian:
- be indulgent and don’t try to control or demonstrate your power just because you send money;
- be sympathetic and don’t criticize and judge the other person;
- be friendly, listen, and look for solutions together;
- ask open-ended questions, encourage the person to tell you everything without making her/him feel like reporting;
- keep calm when you are told about problems or conflicts, don’t blame before you clear things up;
- ask the guardian’s advice before you make any decision concerning your child;
- be grateful to the guardian, praise and offer him/her financial rewards for what he is doing.
If you feel or see that the other parent or guardian does not do his/her job as agreed, if the child feels uncomfortable, anxious and tense, don’t hesitate to talk to the other parent or guardian about these things!
Today is for building the future, which will become the past.
Make plans for the near future together with your child
- Talk to your child about your plans to come home on vacation.
- Talk to the parent who remained at home/guardian, to the child about the opportunity to spend his/her vacation in the country where you work. This is an opportunity to strengthen the parent-child relationship, to make the child learn more about your job and meet new people, visit interesting places, learn about the country’s traditions, which will only benefit his/her development.
- Set a goal with your child linked to an event that is expected to happen and look for solutions to achieve that goal every time when you meet with your child.
Examples of activities: going on a camping trip together, watching a play, visiting a museum or other beautiful places, going to a concert, attending a sports event.
Your children will be even more excited if you plan your vacation together.
Encourage your child to save money for special events.
Make plans for the distant future together with your child
- If you intend to apply for family reunification, find out what needs to be done for this. Family reunification can take place either in the country of origin or abroad. Talk to your children about it and ask them where they would like to live in the future.
- Talk to the children about what they want to be when they grow up. Build together the educational road leading to their goals:
- Help your children to discover their strengths, skills, interests, talents.
- Encourage your children to make a list of careers where they could deploy their strengths, skills, interests, talents.
- Make a research of the labor market together with your children to assess the demand for the occupations they have chosen.
- Agree on where the children will study – in the country of origin or abroad.
- Inform yourself about the specialized secondary schools and higher education institutions, which provide training in the selected fields.
- Inform yourself about the requirements for admission, training conditions, accommodation etc.
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- Money Guide. Most important money lessons to teach your kid.
- Gordon, T. Parent effectiveness training, TREI, Bucharest, 2014.
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INSTEAD OF AN EPILOGUE
Code of adult-child relationship
- A child will become a grown-up: I respect the child;
- The child is curious: I talk to the child;
- The child marvels at something: I help the child to look for beauty;
- The child wants to assert him/herself: I help the child know him/herself;
- The child is looking for a model: I am setting an example for the child;
- The child discovers his/her body: I show the child that strength is health;
- The child doubts him/herself: I appreciate what the child does;
- The child wants to be independent: I teach the child responsibility;
- The child knows nothing but him/herself: I teach the child other things;
- The child needs an ideal: I help the child give meaning to his/her life.