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Question
Posted by: Portia | 2010/08/25

2 Year Old Crying

Dear Doc, my son is just over 2 years old and has been attending creche for the 1st time since january 2010. Although it was difficult at first, it gradually started getting better. his teacher complained that he was crying in his sleep and the pediatrician suggested he could have night terrors common in kids his age. that is now a thing of the past, but i''m sitting with a big concern. my husband works on the rigs and he''s home 4 weeks and away 5 weeks. whenever my husband leaves, i struggle getting my son to his class for the 1st week or two. he cries when i give him to his teacher but then he stops after a few mins. this carries on and eventually dies down, but the pediatrician said that he is scared that i will leave also. he sees his dad goes and doesnt come back and then he might associate that with me thinking i am not coming back. is there anything i can do? or what would you think it could be? it''s really exhausting.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

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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3
Our users say:
Posted by: anon | 2010/08/26

Maybe it will help to take your son to see the oil rig where your hubby works when he is home? Also, maybe take him to see your work. This way he will be able to envision where you''re both going. He therefore won''t get the idea that you''re just disappearing into a void (2 year olds brains can see things very differently).
Then when he gets anxious, you can tell him: remmeber that place we went &  you saw the friendly people &  (describe it a bit) - that''s where mommy/daddy is going. We''ll be back soon.
Perhaps if he can get an idea of where you are, he can understand better.

Reply to anon
Posted by: Purple | 2010/08/26

This must be very scary for your son.

When my son was two and a half we went to stay with my parents for Christmas. My husband had to leave a week before me. I explained to my son that he and I would be staying for a bit before going home but dad would go home that day.
All was fine until after my husband left. My son started to bite me and he kicked my mom and he really behaved in a way that he had never behaved before. I just kept hugging him (despite my mother telling me it was because I didn''t smack him). Later I was reading him his bed time story when he asked me when I was going to go and leave him there. The poor child had been in a panic about it all day and it must have taken him all that time to work out how to say it to me.

Perhaps every morning when you drop your on off, tell him you are going to work and will be back soon. Keep saying " mommy is coming back after work" .
Perhaps also don''t refer to your husband going away as daddy going to work, but perhaps say Daddy is going to the oil rig. Then start focusing on how nice it will be when daddy is home again.

After that incident, whenever my son had something with emotional potential coming up, I used to make up a story about it and start telling it to him at bed time every night for a few days. I had the main character as John the Beeetle Car (as he loved Beetles) and got him to give me some characteristics for John and to describe where he lived. You could use Earl the train or bob the boat or Fenella the fairy or whatever your son would find interesting and enjoy hearing adventures. I used John the beetle car to illustrate good manners, conflict resolution, mom going away for work for two nights and so on.

Good luck. With time he will start to understand.

Reply to Purple
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/08/26

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.

Reply to cybershrink

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