Time is something we can't get back once it is gone. If you missed time with your family because you worked long hours, worked days, were in the military and deployed overseas, or for any other reason, you can't recreate that time. What you can do, however, is make the remaining time something you and your family will remember fondly. Make an effort to spend quality time with family and make good memories, and absence won't be the legacy you leave your children.
Establish a normal routine. Make a point to give your family a sense of normalcy and a routine they can count on. This can be family dinner at 6:30 each night, reading a story at bedtime or helping with homework.
Spend quality time with your family. Go bowling, go to the park, ride bikes, play a board game. Do something that engages everyone and requires interaction. You may be with your child while you're watching TV, but if you aren't interacting, the time isn't very high quality.
Make time for each member of the family individually. In group activities, even if everyone is having fun, it isn't the same as one-on-one time with mom or dad. Give each person individual attention to make him feel special. Let your son help you fix the leaky bathroom faucet, or play teatime with your daughter.
Listen to your family. Make a point to ask about their days, and listen to the answer even if you don't find it very exciting. It is important enough for your family member to relate to you, so it would be disappointing if you didn't pay attention.
Keep appointments. If you make plans to go to your son's game or daughter's recital or to take the family to the zoo, make sure you keep them. Your family will remember the times you don't show up, and they won't understand "I had to stay late at work."
Put your family first. If you are trying to make up for lost time, continuing to put work, friends or other pursuits ahead of your family will only add to the problems you already had. Reschedule the other activity if possible rather than canceling on your family.
Don't try to squeeze years or months worth of absence into a short period of time. Instead of burning out on many activities all at once, make the transition as normal as possible. Be there for everyday activities and make yourself part of the family rather than trying to buy affection with a big gesture.
- American Red Cross: Deployment Tips
- The Augusta Chronicle: Military Dads Try to Make Up for Lost Time
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Being an Involved Father -- What Does it Mean?
- The New York Times: Is There Life After Work?
- National Military Family Association: Back at Home
- The Ohio State University Extension: Spending Time with Your Children
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images