Some strategies to help your kids cope while you're away.
“You’re so brave.”
“I couldn’t imagine being away from my kids for more than a
“How do you cope?”
Statements like these, while well-meaning, can sometimes
hurt. Do they mean that I shouldn’t be doing this? That I’m doing something out
of the ordinary and a little selfish?
I travel a fair amount for work, more so now that I’m doing a
postgraduate degree and there is travel included. My children stay at home with
their dad, my parents, and my husband to look after them. They don’t like it.
They miss me. Sometimes they cry when I leave. Sometimes, they cry when they
speak to me over the phone while I’m gone. But I do it because it’s necessary.
Also, some – actually most - of the places I’ve travelled to are places I would
never have visited had I not been offered the opportunity by my work.
A lot has been written about what to do when you’re going
away for a while and leaving the kids behind. Obviously, it’s an issue for
younger children. Some of the practical ideas I’ve tried and tested are:
Make a calendar of the days you’ll be away. Buy some
colourful stickers and allow the child to paste a sticker on the space for each
day you’re away. This will help him see just how long it is until mom returns.
Depending on the length of time I’m going to be away, I
sometimes leave a surprise package or two of treats for the kids to enjoy.
Their dad, my parents, or my partner can hand them out on a random day, or when
they’re feeling a little down that I’m gone.
One of the articles I read before a particularly long trip
advised making a colourful paper chain with each link representing a day you’ll
be gone. The child gets to pull a link off for each day you’re away, giving him
a visual representation of the days left before you come back.
There are plenty of online tools you can use can contact your
children while away. I’ve used Skype, with varying success. It’s a great way to
see the children and just be with them sometimes. A word of warning, though: if
your internet connection isn’t great on one or both sides, the kids can be
disappointed that there’s no video link. Also, for younger children, the video
can be an issue. When Child3 was just two years old and I was away for a long
time, he began to believe that mommy lived in the computer!
Google Chat, now that they’re older, is a good way of staying
in contact too. I love seeing the differences in the way they each communicate
in writing. Child1 is just the same on Chat as he is in person and sends me
random little emotes when there’s a lull in the conversation. Child2 writes
fast and in run-on sentences, just like she talks.
Bring me a toy!
The best part about going away is coming back with a suitcase
full of gifts for them. I tend not to go overboard when it’s a two day trip
up-country, but if it’s a long trip overseas and depending on the daily
stipend, my kids cash in big time! They’ve received clothes, sweets, toys, and little
touristy trinkets from a variety of countries.
So am I brave for travelling while leaving my children
behind? I don’t think so. I travel because I have to, because I like it, and
because it’s advancing my career. Also, I have a support system that works and
I’m confident my kids will be okay.
What tips do you have for parents who travel a lot?
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
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