Longhaul truck drivers must work hard to maintain family relationships due to the nature of their jobs. They can spend long hours and sometimes days or weeks on the road before snatching a few hours at home, only to quickly return to work.
Clinical therapist Shankari Sharma, at The Therapy Centre in Toronto, and Baldev Mutta, CEO Punjabi Community Health Services in Brampton, Ont., offer several tips on how drivers can better manage relationships with loved ones.
1. Commit to the rituals of connection
Regular phone calls, short emails, or text exchanges with family and loved ones help establish what Sharma refers to as rituals of connection.
Make the time to talk about major issues like finances, parenting, health, and caregiving. This can prevent resentment from building up over time.
2. Focus on the in-person conversations
Sometimes a sleepy driver will call his wife and chat on the phone for an hour to stay awake, but then have nothing to say after returning home, Mutta says. He recommends keeping phone calls short and committing to deeper in-person conversations.
3. Outsource the practical stuff
Take the burden off those who remain closer to home. Hire out the practical stuff, if financially feasible, Sharma says. This could include things like childcare, transportation to school or after-school programs, and mundane tasks like lawn maintenance or snow removal.
4. Watch for signs that something is amiss
If sleeping and eating schedules are thrown off and motivation levels drop, there could be a sign that something is amiss in a relationship. Or maybe the frequency or intensity of conflict is increasing. A person could withdraw from situations just to avoid stuff that stresses them out.
Sharma says some people cope by acquiring unhealthy habits like addictive substances, self-harming, and binge eating. It could also be expressed in dangerous or reckless behavior like promiscuity, unprotected sex, riskier online behavior, sexting, saying dangerous things online, and compulsive pornography use.
5. Touch the human before the technology
Mutta advocates more physical connections to boost mental health and strengthen relationships. Technology consumes a lot of time, and he says parents only spend about 10 minutes a day with their teenaged children. Teens themselves are also closer to friends and peers than parents due to the same technology.
Alienation increases without the hugs and play, and relationships become superficial, Mutta says. The same can be said of spousal interactions.
6. Solve the solvable problems
Solving “solvable” problems will make a person feel happier, Sharma says. Paying a bill or balancing a schedule to get proper rest, sleep, and meals are good examples of steps that can reduce stress in a relationship. Getting treatment for physical ailments will also support mental health since both are connected.
7. Commit to five minutes a day
Mutta tells people who say they are busy to take five minutes a day to connect with their children. Read from a book and chat with them. And when taking a few minutes to have a conversation with a spouse or partner, be sure to hold hands and touch to establish an emotional connection.
8. Make happy choices — but avoid arbitrary ones
When drivers are on home time, Mutta stresses they should make happy choices. But it’s equally important to ensure the choices are not arbitrary. A driver who thinks their spouse needs a break from cooking might offer to take the family out for a meal, but maybe their partner wants to stay home and discuss something important. Always ask family members what they would like to do when you get home.
- The Canadian government’s list of resources for mental health, addictions, and crisis supports for adults, parents and guardians, older adults, youth and young adults, and Indigenous peoples: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html
- Punjabi Community Health Services in the Greater Toronto Area offers mental health and addictions, geriatric, settlement, child, youth and family services: https://pchs4u.com/
- Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman’s website Gottman Connect offers science-based information and courses for individuals or couples looking to improve relationships: https://gottmanconnect.com/couples.
- PsychologyToday can help find registered social workers, psychotherapists, and psychologists in your area for individual sessions, couples therapy, or family therapy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca
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