Our expert says:
Companies that arrange that sort of work schedule often ignore the possible repercissions within a family, and its not surprising that a little lad would find i hard to handle the idea of Dad being very much here, and then disappearing altogether for some time. As the pediarician says, he may fear that i Dad can disappear so completely and suddenly, so might you ; this could indeed be part of the issue.
Of course at his age there are limitations on how you could explain the situation to him, but it's still worth re-assuring him that though Dad is going away to work, he WILL be coming home again in a while. In an older child one might even have a wall calendar, and have the child mark off each day until the clearly marked date on which Dad will return.
Also, I think a company that inflicts such shedules on staff, should provide them with the means, by Skype, perhaps, cell-phone, whatver, to regularly call home and speak to spouse and children. Maybe engage him in planning some things to do with dad when dad comes back, which also helps to re-enforce the thought that Dad is away at work but will be returning, just not right now.
Purple's story is instructive. It is hard for us as adults to understand how such situations appear and feel to a child, especially one so young. Remember it takes qite a while, for instance, for a child to develop an adult sense of time and duration, so if mom or dad goes away for even a few hours, it can feel like forever. It takes time to develop psychological skills we take for granted without noticing, like object constance, feel sure that Dad still exists during times when I can't see him or hear him.
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