In a world where the globalization of business often requires parents to travel more often and for longer periods of time, young children can find it difficult to adapt to these absences. However, with proper preparation and a few techniques in place, parents can help their kids manage the separation in a positive way and even learn some valuable coping skills in the process.
Lay the groundwork
When organizing a family for a parent’s business travel, good communication up front can make all the difference in making the process go more smoothly. Knowing when to talk to a child about a parent’s upcoming absence depends largely on the developmental stage of the child. In general, younger children struggle to grasp the concept of time. Statements like “next week” or “next month” may not be ideas they understand. Telling them about the trip closer to the departure date usually mitigates the child’s anxiety about the time a parent must be away.
Tip: Create a calendar with your child that depicts the current date, the departure date and the return date. Allow him or her to cross off each day to help them understand how time is passing.
Children are likely to have many questions about their parent’s travel plans. Give details about your destination, what you will be doing, how you will stay in contact and when you will be coming home. Being patient and giving your child detailed responses to questions can help ease their anxiety.
Tip: Sit down with a globe or map and show your child where you will be going. Adding fun facts about your destination can help make your travel more interesting and less worrisome to them.
The bags are packed, tickets booked, hotels reserved and all that’s left is to say goodbye – the hardest part for kids and parents. Try not to drag your goodbye out so that everyone can quickly move past the moment. Remind your child how you will be communicating with them (phone, text, Skype, etc.) and when you will see them again. If someone will be staying with your children while you’re gone, or they will be going to someone else’s home in your absence, make sure these caregivers understand your family’s routine and day-to-day structure.
Tip: Ask your child if you can bring one of their stuffed animals with you. Taking pictures of the toy in various places along your trip can be a fun way to keep in touch.
Travel can be exhausting, especially when paired with business. While climbing into bed may be foremost on your mind, be sure to check in with the kids first. They’ve missed you and have likely been awaiting your return with great anticipation. Make time to get in all the hugs, kisses and stories you missed while you were gone.
Tip: Bringing back a gift that is reminiscent of your trip is a great way to show your child that he or she was on your mind while you were away.
By having these strategies in place, your child will know exactly what to expect when you travel – making each departure a little less painful and each homecoming a little more joyful.