International Family Day: Staying Connected in Jobs at Sea

May 14, 2024 · 8 mins read ·

Life at Sea
AI generated image of a seafarer on a video call with his family

Every year on May 15th, the world celebrates the International Day of Families. This day, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993, emphasizes the importance of families as fundamental units of society and the need to foster harmony and a spirit of understanding within them - something that is especially important in families who have a member working in a job at sea. 

The day serves as a poignant reminder of the evolving structures of families, influenced by global socio-economic pressures and cultural shifts. One such dynamic is the reality for families of seafarers, who often spend months away from home, highlighting unique challenges to familial bonds and communication.

Read moreHow to Cope with Working Away from Home in a Job at Sea

Here we take a closer look at the International Day of Families, or International Family Day as it’s also sometimes called, with a particular focus on how those working on container ships and other merchant vessels can strengthen and maintain those familial bonds.

Something that we think is particularly apt, given that the theme for the International Day of Families this year is “Embracing Diversity, Strengthening Families” 

What is the International Day of Families all about?

The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to reflect on the significance of family ties and to promote awareness of issues relating to families. 

The themes associated with this day often address crucial aspects like health, education, and rights within familial contexts, aiming to enhance the living conditions of families around the world. As societies develop, the structure and expectations of families also evolve, adapting to new economic realities and cultural norms.

Read more: 5 Practical Tips for Relationships if You Work in Jobs at Sea 

The unique challenges of seafaring families

Among the many different types of modern family setups, families of seafarers represent a particularly distinct and challenging lifestyle. As you probably know, especially if you’re working in a job at sea yourself, seafarers, who are crucial to the global maritime industry, often spend prolonged periods at sea. 

This separation can strain family relationships, making the maintenance of close family ties more complex and necessitating creative approaches to bridge the physical and emotional distances.

Staying connected: strategies for seafaring families

The unique lifestyle of those working in seafarer jobs calls for equally unique solutions to maintain family ties. Here are several strategies that can help seafaring families stay connected.

Read more: How to Cope When Your Partner Works Away From Home

Regular communication

Advances in technology have transformed how seafarers can keep in touch with their families. The use of satellite internet aboard ships, although sometimes costly and with variable signal strengths, allows for regular communication through emails, social media, and messaging apps. 

Scheduling regular times to video call helps maintain a semblance of routine and normalcy, giving family members something to look forward to.

Sharing the small moments

It’s often the small, everyday details that keep a relationship close. Seafarers and their families can share daily experiences like photos, short videos, or even voice recordings discussing their day. This can help everyone feel more involved in each other’s lives, despite the physical distance.

Emotional support and reassurance

It’s crucial for family members to openly express their feelings about the separation. Acknowledging the hardships and providing mutual support can strengthen relationships. Families can set up a support system where they discuss their feelings and offer reassurance to each other, which is vital during longer periods away.

Maintaining rituals

Families can maintain certain rituals even when one member is at sea. For instance, reading the same book or watching the same movies or shows can give family members something to talk about during their communications.

Celebrating birthdays, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, religious festivals and occasions such as Christmas and New Year, albeit virtually, can also help in maintaining these important connections.

Read more: How to Stay Upbeat Onboard Your Vessel this Christmas

Educational involvement

Being away while working at sea doesn't have to mean being an absent parent and seafarers with children can take an active role in their educational growth by being involved in their schooling.

Activities such as helping with homework through video calls, planning educational activities that can be discussed later, and even explaining what life working on a cargo ship or tanker is like are all ways of maintaining that parent-child relationship.

Planning quality time for home visits

The time seafarers spend at home should be quality time. Making time to chill and de-stress after returning home is crucial. But so too is planning activities that cater to the entire family’s interests.

Whether it's taking a vacation, playing sports, riding bikes, or having a picnic on the beach or in the park, these can help make the most out of their time together, reinforcing family bonds and creating lasting memories.

The International Day of Families and seafarer jobs: final thoughts

The International Day of Families serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of nurturing and cherishing the bonds that tie families together, regardless of the circumstances. 

For families of seafarers, this day is a poignant occasion to reflect on the challenges and reaffirm their commitments to each other across the miles.

Homesickness when you’re working in a job at sea can be very real. But by embracing both traditional and modern means of communication, seafaring families can remain connected, ensuring that no member feels isolated or alone, no matter where their work might take them.

This day of observance not only highlights the diversity of family units across the globe but also the universal nature of familial love and the enduring spirit of togetherness. As the day approaches, we can all take a moment to think about the many ways families continue to adapt, thrive, and support one another in the face of all challenges.

And, of course, if you are someone who works on a container ship or any other type of commercial vessel and you spend long periods of time away from home, we would like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much for your hard work and sacrifices.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.

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