We have an 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. My husband travels for work and is home on the weekends. I feel like a single mom raising an ungrateful, angry tween, who has a fresh answer for every request I make. She seemingly makes an effort to be nasty, with occasional apologies sprinkled in when she wants something. I'm afraid to ask her to do anything because she will explode. When her dad calls me at 3:30 each afternoon, she and her brother are in the background with snide remarks of how I am so mean and always yelling. I think a big source of stress is that they miss their dad throughout the week. When he returns on weekends we start off well, but then my husband steps in where I left off, rehashing all the terrible behaviors I've reported over the past week. He says he doesn't know how to do things any differently, but realizes that we are not the wonderful, loving family we had both always imagined. We need some ideas to bond and change the direction of our family.
— Feeling single and sad
There is plenty of hope for change, and you can help your husband develop a loving relationship with his daughter, and a strong connection with his son.
Ask your husband to phone you at another time during the day when your children are in school. That will afford you the private time you need to catch up and stay connected without interruptions from your children, who are looking for both your and his attention. Suggest he call your children between certain hours every day, for example between 8 and 9 p.m., just before bed, where they can count on his call and share the day's events. Encourage them to share the good things that happened, and save the tattling for another time. Take it a step further and teach everyone to Skype.
Love notes and kisses
Suggest that Dad leave five love notes and chocolate kisses for both children, marking every day that he is gone. They can be hidden under a pillow, in a shoe, by a toothbrush or in a book bag. The notes can be simple, stating he misses them, or wishes them good luck on a test.
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Ramp up your recognition of everything your kids are doing well. Stop requesting, and give clear directives. Walk away from banter, negotiation or rude behavior, because you can't teach when emotions are escalated. Stay focused on positives and schedule fun weekend plans with Dad that everyone will enjoy.
Diana Boggia Is a columnist for Gatehouse Media.