Are long hours at the office and frequent business trips leaving you feeling like a visitor in your own home? Tom Limbert, a parent coach and author of Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, says there are several ways to enhance your relationship, and stay connected with your kids and your family - despite grueling hours at the office or on the road.
1. Write a note.
Technology works well to communicate, but there's something extra special about a hand-written note.
"We often forget the power of a good old-fashioned note," Limbert says. "When you aren't present, your words in a note carry even more weight. Use that to your advantage. If you miss your child when you are away, go ahead and tell her that in the note. If you have a request for him while you can't be there, ask it in a way that is supportive and conveys your belief in him."
2. Start a project together.
Help your child look forward to your return by beginning a puzzle, starting an art or woodworking project, or constructing a model airplane or car with your child to continue when you return home.
3. Plan out times to call.
Depending on the nature of your work, find times to connect with your kids on a routine basis. Know your family's daily schedule so you can call to wish your kids a good day at school or find out how the day went. Phone calls also help your child grow accustomed to talking on the phone, an important communication skill.
4. Record your voice.
Kids love audiobooks, especially if they're listening to someone they love. Purchase a recordable storybook and record yourself reading the book. Your kids will enjoy listening to you over and over again.
5. Bring home a gift.
Gifts can spark a conversation with your child about where you traveled. "My wife has fond memories of her dad bringing home a gift from wherever he was," Limbert says. Keep gifts small and related to where you visited, especially if you travel frequently. For example, a colorful cardboard coaster from a restaurant you dined at, an international coin, a toy plane like the one you flew on, or a key ring with the name of the destination you visited (some kids like to attach these to their backpacks).
6. Back home?
Give your child your undivided attention when you first walk in the door rather than immediately checking those distracting email and phone messages.
"Listen to your child and stay in the moment," Limbert says. "It's natural for men to want to give a child solutions, but far more effective to ask questions that lead children to express themselves and form their own conclusions."
7. Schedule quality time together.
Plan an activity with your children for when you return, like going to a baseball game or movie, playing catch or hitting golf balls, coloring a picture, taking a bike ride, or going out to breakfast together. Be flexible and remember quality times like these can turn into family traditions and memories you and your children will cherish for years to come.
About Tom Limbert: Tom is the author of Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, which includes over 100 inspiring quotes and a foreword from Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. As a parent coach, Tom has worked with children and families since 1992. He has a master's degree in education with an emphasis in early childhood development. To learn more about Tom, visit him at Parent Coach Tom.