It’s never ideal to leave your kids behind as you take an extended trip. Whether it’s for work or family business, if you find that the demands of life are calling you away from home for a while, it’s important to prepare you and your children for your absence. An extended parental absence can be traumatizing for all parties involved, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are a few tips to help you ensure that your time away goes as smoothly as possible for your little ones … and yourself.
Line Up the Right People
It’s important to find the right caregiver when you’re away. This starts with selecting an individual who is capable of watching your kids. You also want to trust them implicitly. Your kids should also be very comfortable with them before you leave.
Usually, the best-case scenario is to leave a spouse behind. However, if you don’t have that option, you can look for a family member or trusted sitter.
Additionally, for extended trips, it’s wise to set up a bigger network of helpers. If you have two sets of parents, consider splitting the longer trip between them. Even if the kids stay at one place the whole time, make sure you have others ready to support your frontline caregivers if they need assistance while you’re gone.
If you’re going to be gone for a longer chunk of time, you must communicate with your children throughout the process. This starts by informing them about the upcoming trip well beforehand. Talk through the plans and help them gain a sense of understanding about how things will go.
Additionally, once you’re gone, make an effort to consistently communicate. Some kids need daily interaction with their parents, others, like older children, may need only an occasional check-in — at least until they start missing Mom or Dad. The frequency of this will depend on the needs of your kids, but there are plenty of ways to reach out.
Call them in the morning. Reach out at lunchtime. Set up a virtual storytime date every night. You can even leave them a recordable message that they can listen to whenever they want. However you go about it, make sure that your kids are still feeling connected while you’re gone.
Set the Stage at Home
Take some time to consider where your child will be staying while you’re gone, too. Will you have a live-in babysitter? If that’s the case, make sure the home is clean and organized, both for their sake and to help keep your children’s nerves down. To keep the sitter’s duties to a minimum, arrange for cleaners to come weekly to clean the home. Some services will even do your dishes and your laundry. Not only will this take stress off the sitter, it will take it off you as well. You might even want to keep it going when you return.
If your children are staying at another person’s house, see if you can personalize their living space a bit. For instance, if they’re staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, see if you can bring some items along to create a calming, controlled atmosphere in their temporary bedroom.
Set up similar lighting. Hang some familiar, colorful items on the wall. Organize the room similar to their bedroom at home. Set up their white noise machine. You get the idea. Even if they’re not at a family member’s home, if it’s an extended stay, hopefully, their host will allow them the opportunity to bring some of the comforts of home with them.
Prepare Yourself, Too
Finally, remember that you’ll probably need some prep time as well. Leaving your kids behind can be emotionally challenging. Even if you know you need the break, it’s easy to feel guilty or worried as you fret about the upcoming event.
Make sure to acknowledge your anxiety so that you can process it. This will help you make conscious, reasonable decisions during your trip.
Along with emotional preparation, make a mental note to genuinely try to make the best of your time away. It’s a huge effort to travel, whether it’s for work or pleasure. Don’t fritter away your time worrying, if you can help it. (I will be the first to acknowledge how challenging this can be. The first time I had to work away from my kids I was miserable. I was so upset that I ended up physically sick.)
Making Longer Times Away Worth It
So, the next time you’re thinking of traveling for an extended period, remember to review this blog post. Run through the steps listed above.
Set up a deep support system for your kids while you’re away. Set the stage for their living space so that they feel comfortable. Create clear lines of communication. And, of course, prepare your own mind and emotions, as well.
If you can do that, you can make the most of any longer trip while minimizing the impact that it can have on your loved kids.