In the bustling world of productivity and the prioritization of our careers, sometimes at the detriment to our families, we are recently encountering more times when we need to travel for work and be away from our top priority — our kids.
Although it may not be our choice to take work trips and be away from our family, there are techniques we can utilize to maintain the connection while we are away.
Sometimes children during these times develop emotional responses to the temporary absence of their parents. They may make it harder to go to school or become more tearful or clingier with the parent who has stayed home. This has an added challenge for the parent who is maintaining the fort, since being alone with the children is hard enough without added behavioral responses and emotional triggers in the mix.
Here are some easy and creative tips for how to make these trips go smoothly and keep a connection to the family while away.
1. Set Up a Scavenger Hunt:
For each day you’re away you can set up a special toy or treat with a clue of where to find it. This is particularly helpful if children have a hard time at a specific time of day (usually mornings or night). This can be included in the going to bed or waking up ritual to help include the parent who is away at these times.
2. Utilize Technology
The advent of modern technological devices creates new pathways for families to maintain connections. The ability to PM, make comments on social media, text, message and email helps defy lengthy time zone differences.
Use Facetime or send pictures to feel included in daily activities.
3. Use a Transitional Object
Kids can hold on to a keepsake from the parent who is traveling, something of their own choosing, it can be a t-shirt, spray of the cologne on a teddy bear, or something the parent has given the child. Holding on to this item helps place the positive feelings of the parent who is away onto an available resource which is tangible.
Set up in advance what will help you the most. If you’re scared that your child may get sick, get on everything you may need in advance to put your mind at ease. Make sure you’re stocked with medicine, liquids, iPad is charged, and your partner has all the logistical needs taken care of, the location and info of the pediatrician, etc.
We can’t prepare for everything but, if you find yourself saying “what if something happens,” try to finish the thought and solve it. Often times, we get so stuck in the “what if” that we can become paralyzed and not take a few simple steps to set up what we need in order to have a great time.
5. Forget about the Guilt
If you’re in a dynamic of feeling guilty you are away, try to work it out with your partner to develop a game plan. If you’re getting time away (even though it may not be luxurious) be a good team mate and set up time for your partner to get a break from child-care taking upon your return. It will give you a time to reconnect with the kids and will give the partner who has been home a chance to go to the bathroom in solitude.
6. Plan it out
For the parent who stays home, make sure you’re scheduled with: friends who can help during bedtime, setting up playdates, and making a plan for each day.
Have help in the form of family members who can help give kids added TLC in the parent’s absence, or a mother’s helper who can help out with some time so you’re not feeling alone the whole time.
It is important to remember that the approach to these separations make a big difference. Approaching the weekends alone with dread and wondering how you will survive it is considerably more distressing than taking the weekend as an opportunity. LA-based psychologist Dr. Elisa Rabinow advises that these moments “build self-confidence in the role of a parent” and that by taking on more of the work alone, you realize you CAN do it!