Missing family events. Staying connected to the kids. Workplace mental health. Keeping the home fires burning.
Mining Family Matters co-founder Alicia Ranford has chatted with thousands of miners first attending AIMEX - Asia-Pacific's International Mining Exhibition back in 2011, and says these are four of the biggest issues raised by mining workers across the country.
"The most important message we always give to workers and families is that they’re not alone in finding the lifestyle tough sometimes," Ms Ranford says. "And there are practical ways to deal with these four common challenges."
Expert advice on key issues raised by mining workers doing FIFO or DIDO shifts – as outlined in MiningFM’s award-winning Survival Guide for Mining Families – includes:
1. Missing big family events: Remember there’s no law that says major birthdays, anniversaries or even your family Christmas need to be celebrated on any given day (or can’t be celebrated twice). If you feel sad or anxious, get it off your chest by talking to a trusted friend or family member so your children don’t “wear” your unhappiness. On big days that you’re apart, be kind to yourselves and each other.
2. Staying connected to the kids: Young children can be very literal, so replace phrases like “going away” with “going to work”. On the phone, replace uninspiring questions (“How was your day?”) with open, informed queries (“How’d you go in the spelling test?” or “What made you laugh today?”). Be present when you’re home – drive your children to school and to sport. Stay in touch with teenagers through text messages and social media. Don’t use working away as an excuse to be disconnected.
3. Workplace mental health: Set strong goals that will keep you focused in challenging times. Stay healthy with smart food choices and decent sleep. Encourage a similar focus on mental health as physical health in the workplace. Remember that depression and anxiety are common and can be treated, while skills can also be learnt to manage stress. Take advantage of confidential Employee Assistance Programs.
4. Keeping the home fires burning: Remember that life is not a competition – you’re both exhausted! Regularly reassess how you’re coping and be proactive with support systems like a gardener, cleaner or grandparents to babysit to give you both a break. Be open and honest. Discuss issues as a team (replace “How are YOU going to fix this?” with “What can WE do?”)
Mining Families Matters also publishes The Survival Guide for Mining Families and the generic Working Away Guide for employees who travel for work in any industry, with nearly 150,000 copies sold to companies across Australia in recent years.