By Renee Plumberg
August 9, 2023
Fathers, like all Christians, are called to be imitators of God. (Ephesians 5:1) A vital way fathers can be imitators of God in their families is by being present in their children’s lives. We frequently see in scripture the promise of God’s presence. Kids who have fathers who are intentionally present in their lives are incredibly blessed and their life-long image of their dad will reflect that.
Sometimes, Dads can’t be there. Dads go on business trips. Dads who are in the military can be gone for extended lengths of time. Such is the case for our guest writer today, Renee Plumberg. Her husband, Patrick has been gone on a couple year-long deployments. Renee and Patrick are the parents of 4 boys, ages 1-7 years. If you are in Patrick and Renee’s situation, I am confident you will be blessed by what she shares here.
“What can parents do if the father is unable to be physically present? I am sure it looks different in each family. Dad may travel a lot for work or work long hours. For some, you may be like my family, and the military separates you for long periods. It may be for weeks, months, or over a year. That has been the situation for us multiple times.
It may be tempting to think this is just a season and the kids will connect with Dad when he returns home. The truth is, kids still need to connect with Dad when he is away. So, what do we do? We get creative. Here are six things you probably do when Dad is home that can be tweaked when he is gone. When you apply these things during the absence, children and Dad will feel connected despite the distance.
1) Cultivate a family identity. Family unity and a strong family purpose are imperative. By demonstrating this despite the distance, kids will have a sense of continuity and security. Keep up with creative family nights and take pictures for Dad. You can even have Dad share what he can’t wait to do with everyone when he returns. Then Mom and the kids can spend some time planning it out together. The anticipation and joy will build. Emphasizing we are still a family gives them stability and doesn’t make them feel like they are being raised by a single mom.
2) Demonstrate lasting love as a couple. It can be challenging to show this to the children when you are separated. Sometimes contact is a sporadic/short phone call where the kids don’t overhear the conversation, but know Mommy and Daddy are talking. This works as this tells them Mommy and Daddy still need their own time together. What helped us was continuing couch time the best we could.
If we could receive a phone or video call, we grabbed the opportunity. Depending on the amount of time Dad has, the kids could talk as a group on speaker, or each had one-on-one time with him. Telling the kids he loved them as a group on speaker phone was one thing, and a very good thing, but it was not as impactful as telling them individually, so we were really grateful when he got an extended time period to connect with us. After each kid connected with Dad, he told them he wanted to spend uninterrupted time with Mom because he loved her. The kids then sat nearby and played quietly. We chose not to talk about kids or behavior at that time. We tried to keep up with those conversations via e-mail. That way, we could treat that call like a fun date. The kids could see my smile and hear us laughing and enjoying ourselves and this told them Mommy and Daddy were fine.
When we would go awhile without contact, I would still set aside couch time to read his new or old messages. Sometimes I would use that time to write a letter to him or work on a care package.
Thoughts from Carla: The 2 points Renee shared in this blog are good for every parent, not just those separated by distance. We have often talked about the importance of both family identity and using couch time to show your kids your marriage comes first in the Parenting Made Practical social media posts. If you have a strong identity as a family, it will go a long way for your kids to feel like they belong even when Dad is away.
Two of Patrick and Renee’s boys dressing up like Daddy when he was on deployment are in the photo at the top of the page.
Renee has 4 good points left to share which will be in the next blog. We encourage you to look forward to it coming on August 16.
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”