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Long Distance Relationships – Managing the Holidays

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Returning Home For the Holidays: Tips For Super Commuter Families

It’s that time of year.  The arrival of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas means time off from work for many employees. The holiday season may provide a solid block of time to be home, as much as 12 straight days if one were to take vacation from the weekend before Christmas through New Years Day.  At first glance that sounds amazing, but for super commuter families used to one parent living away from home due to their job, how can you make the transition to being together, the re-entry into the family home in other words, easier?  Below are three suggestions for maximizing your quality time together.

1.)   Prioritize. For many super commuter families, weekends are spent checking items off the “to do” list.  Use this extra free time for more than chores by having each family member pick one thing they would like to do or accomplish, ideally something that brings enjoyment.  It could be seeing a movie together, a date night for parents, or time for the commuter parent and the kids to do something they don’t normally have time for. This last option has the added benefit of allowing the primary caregiver their own “time off”.

2.)   Rest.  Pick one day where everyone has a few hours of downtime.  The holidays are busy with parties, shopping, and travel, so by scheduling rest, the entire family can recharge is whatever way works for them.  A nap, fitness class at the gym, or reading a book that has been sitting on the nightstand for weeks are a few examples.

3.)   Keep it simple.  If you have kids, they likely will be excited to have everyone reunited.  While ones instinct might be to plan a big outing or a lot of events, the reality is that most kids, with their busy school and activity schedules, want down time as much as parents.  My suggestion?  Make homemade pizzas together, go through photos that are sitting on your computer and reminisce about the year, and set some family goals for 2014.

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Facing the Unknown

Fear.  It’s powerful.  When people are faced with a possible super commute, that’s who usually shows up first…Fear.  I was just talking with someone today who may have to make the decision whether to super commute temporarily or uproot her family immediately and the first thing she shared was all of the things she was worried about.  Being away from her kids, missing her friends, and then Fear’s companion joined the conversation…Negative What If?  What if I hate the job?  What if my family moves too and the kids don’t do well?  What if I make the wrong choice?

When sitting with clients and Fear and Negative What If come into the room, I counter with Positive What If.  What if you really like the job?  What if the financial benefits allow your husband to work less and spend more time with the kids?  What if it actually goes well?  And here is the one that really gets the conversation going:

What if one of the fears were to happen?

For example, what if you do hate the job? Yes, that would be unfortunate and it might mean taking awhile to get another, but what kind of skills did you gain?  A positive aspect: You modeled for your kids taking a well-informed risk and not having it work perfectly, but being OK.

In today’s economy, career decisions can be complex.  With a super commute it can be that much more so, but when a couple sits down and really does an honest “pro’s and con’s” list and shares their fears and makes a plan B or plan C to the best of their ability, it can push the fear away enough to allow for the potential benefits to have a place in the conversation too.  One of my three mottos I share with clients and audiences is:You can always change your mind.  It may not be quick or the easiest option but very few things are truly permanent.  Gather information.  Speak honestly.  And get ready for the next adventure.

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