Parenting when working away from home

Tips to help parents stay connected with their children when away

Jolanta Midor, UNICEF South Asia
Jytosna ben annd her daughter
15 December 2022

If you’re a parent, or caregiver, and work away from home, you’ll know how difficult it can be at times to feel fully connected and involved in your children’s lives when you’re not there physically.  

You are not alone. Many families across South Asia struggle emotionally when one or both parents live away from home for work.  

Children can experience a range of emotions. They can easily misinterpret not seeing their parents as being ignored and could grow resentful. Younger children may struggle to remember life before you left and become shy and distant when you return home. 

The experience can also take a heavy toll on parents’ mental health. It’s hard to see your children distressed and many parents experience feelings of guilt and isolation.  

As the Staff Counsellor at UNICEF South Asia, I’ve seen how much pain distance can cause. But I also know that with the right approach, patience and determination, it is possible to stay emotionally and mentally connected with your children when physically apart.   

Here are my top tips to help you stay connected with your children when you’re away: 


It’s important to work closely with the caregivers taking over at home to ensure the best care for your child and work out how you will stay involved in parenting from a distance. Cooperation, communication, and creating a positive dynamic between all adults involved are important here. 

  • Agree on a form of communication that works well for everyone involved, but especially your child. It could be phone calls, text messages, Messenger Apps, emails, video calls — there are so many options out there! 

  • Agree on regular days and times that you will connect and stick to these, so that communication becomes part of your routine.  

Family in Bhutan

Before you leave home 

  • Tell your child that they are loved and that they will always be — no matter what they say and do.  

  • Reassure your child that you will stay in touch even though you are away. 

  • Explain to your child why your job is important and the reason you have to be away. You will be surprised how reasonable children can be once you explain your situation to them. 

  • Give them some happy family photos, or a small parting gift, to help remember you by. 

  • As your child grows, they’ll become increasingly inquisitive and eager to try new things. Before you leave, it’s essential to establish ground rules with other caregivers, and your child, on what behaviors are expected and not allowed. You may need to revisit these rules when you’re away. 

When you’re away  

  • Be patient and prepared that your child’s response when you call them might not be what you had hoped for, or expected. It can take time for children to adjust. 

  • Share your life away with your child. Tell them about interesting things you’ve seen or heard. Send photos of yourself and your new surroundings. Try including short descriptions of what’s happening in the photos.  

  • Videos and voice messages are also great ways to help your child feel connected to you. 

  • Share jokes to make connection feel fun. 

  • If you hear that your child has done something wrong, calmly explain to them why this was wrong, instead of lashing out. 

  • Decorate your desk at work, or your living environment with lovely pictures of your child and family. 

  • Stay in touch with your child’s school to check in on how they’re doing and learn more about their life. 

  • Always speak positively about the caregivers at home in front of your child. If you need to resolve conflict, do so in private, when your child isn’t around. 

  • Remember that your partner, family members and other caregivers have been working hard to take care of your child and keep things together at home while you’re away. It's important to recognize their efforts even if you disagree with their methods.  


Returning home  

  • Be patient and prepared that your child’s response to you returning home may not be what you had hoped for or anticipated. 

  • Remember, your child is growing and changing. Expect them to take up new habits, tastes, interests, likes and dislikes every time you see them.   

  • Bring a small gift for your child. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something meaningful. Bringing a locally made gift is a great way to help your child learn about a different culture. Spend time with your child explaining the gift’s background and meaning. 

  • Tell them about you! Children are insatiable in their quest to learn as much as they can about you, including what you like and dislike, the places you visit, the people you spend time with and so much more. 

  • Take advantage of your time at home to visit your child's classroom or attend a school event. 

  • Treasure every moment. Every second spent with your child is precious, and you should treasure it as much as possible. Your child needs to sense your presence, receive your love, and delight in your attention whether you live next door or halfway around the world.  

Remember, long-distance relationships between parents/caregivers and children are complicated, but not without solutions. Of the countless parents I have supported, I have noticed that it’s not the quantity of time parents spend with their children that most matters, but the quality. 

Effort, time, and planning make it possible to strengthen family bonds and make sure your child remembers their childhood as a dear one — where they were loved by and connected with you, no matter how physically far you were.  


*Photos used in this article are for illustrative purposes. 

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