RESOURCE industry support network Mining Family Matters has released its top tips to help fly-in, fly-out employees in the mining, oil and gas sectors overcome the potential challenges of being away from family during the Christmas season.

Angie Willcocks, a psychologist and associate of Mining Family Matters, said Christmas is a time of anticipation for most, but can be tough for FIFO families.

“For many FIFO families, the countdown to 25 December involves preparing to spend Christmas away from your family and friends – and perhaps for the first time,” she said.

“It can be tough sometimes when you’re away from loved ones for major family celebrations like these.”

To help alleviate some of the difficulties, Ms Willcocks developed a guide for FIFO workers and their families.

  1. Get organised ahead of time. Don’t use working away as an excuse to get out of present buying! Get pressies and cards organised ahead of time for the people who are most special to you. This isn’t just about the gift; it’s about feeling connected.
  2. Think about what Christmas really means to you. If you’re a practicing Christian, take some time out on Christmas Day to watch a Christmas service on the television or online. If the religious stuff isn’t what makes Christmas important to you, move the family celebration to another day.
  3. Make firm dates and plans to catch up with your loved family and friends when you’re next home. Prioritise the people you really want to see. This will give you something to look forward to.
  4. Spoil yourself. Take a little bit of your favourite food or drink with you so the day feels a bit special.
  5. Connect with others on site. Don’t be tempted to just shut yourself off from others. You’ll feel a bit better, and the day will pass more quickly, if you’re with others who are in the same boat.
  6. Think ahead of time about what will work best on Christmas Day in terms of Skyping or calling home. Obviously this will depend on your roster for the day, and the family’s plans, but it should also depend on what’s easiest for you all emotionally. There is no ‘right’ answer to this one.
  7. Watch your thinking and try not to feel too sorry for yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “poor me” and imagining everyone else in the world laughing merrily with their families. This way of thinking is unhelpful as well as unrealistic. Plenty of people have to work Christmas Day (like hospital staff, pilots and those in hospitality to name just a few) and not everyone is laughing happily with their families Christmas Day!
  8. Don’t be tempted to drink more alcohol to help you ‘cope’ with your feelings of sadness or loneliness. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that too much will have you feeling sadder, not happier. If you’re finding your feelings particularly hard to cope with and don’t want to upset your partner or friends by telling them how bad you’re feeling, call Lifeline to chat with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor: 13 11 14.
  9. Concentrate your thoughts on the things you have to be thankful for: like having a job to go to and family and friends to miss.
  10. Give. Think about a charity, organisation, family or individual you know who is having a hard time. Send a donation, card, letter or text to show your support at Christmas.

To see Ms Willcock’s tips for families at home, click here.