Leaving your children at home – whether you travel often for business or pleasure, or simply work long hours – is hard for devoted parents. Sometimes life requires this separation and it can actually be quite healthy for both you and your kids. Many parents are concerned about the emotional and developmental effects leaving may have on their children. Typically, kids are not scared by the fact that their parents travel as long as they are well taken care of while you or our spouse are gone. But there are certainly ways of staying connected when you’re away to ensure your children feel your love and special bond even from a distance.
Prepare your kids: Springing on your kids the fact that you’re leaving for a week the morning you are flying out isn’t a great idea. Talk about your trip for at least a few days in advance so your children know you’ll be away, who will be staying with them and what to expect during that time. Try to plan for their schedules to be as normal as possible with day care, school, activities, etc… and add in a few special treats that your caregiver can facilitate as well. Prepare several of their favorite dinners to have on hand while you’re gone. Ask your children to help you pack for your trip so you can talk about where you are going, what you’ll be doing, and the weather at your destination. This will help them feel more connected to where you will be too. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that leaving them makes you sad and it’s OK for them to feel sad as well. Soon you will all be back together again and have lots to share with each other about your time apart.
Keep in touch: While you are gone, keep in touch as much as possible, even more than you think you should. Call at times when you know your kids will be available, such as first thing in the morning, in the car on their way home from school and bedtime. Use texts and emails to send pictures of what you’re doing on your trip and encourage them to do the same. Also, video conference when possible. You can even bring along a few books and read to them at bedtime as if you were right there tucking them in as usual.
Create a loving moment: Set a certain time when you and your children plan to think of each other and send loving thoughts. Set an alarm for your kids so they’ll know the special time and do the same for yourself. This is also a great time to visualize giving each other hugs. Talk your kids through this before you leave and then practice it during your loving moment time while you’re gone. Because you know each other so well, you may actually feel the warmth of each other’s embrace.
Write notes for each day of your trip: Leave a short note for your child to open every day while you’re gone. It should briefly give love and encouragement for whatever your child has going on that day. You can draw pictures as well. Also include what you may be doing that day on your trip so your children can think about you as well.
Arrange a long distance treasure hunt: Hide a few items around your house. Each day give clues to where your children can find one of the items. This will be a fun way for them to look forward to hearing from you and stay enamored with you from afar.
Make gifts and have a welcome home party: Ask your children to make you a special gift while you’re away. Buy supplies for a cool art project or whatever it is your children may want to create for you. You should also make or buy a gift to bring back for your kids. When you return, have a welcome home party and exchange gifts. Maybe break your own rules slightly during the party, such as not making your kids eat veggies for a night or getting to stay up late. This helps your kids feel excited about being together again. Be sure to do something fun with your children right away and be present while you’re with them so they know they were missed and how much you care.
Enjoy your travel time knowing that staying connected while you’re away ensures your bond with your children will be as strong as ever when you return.