The travelling parent
Some strategies to help your kids cope while you're away.
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“You’re so brave.”

“I couldn’t imagine being away from my kids for more than a few hours.”

“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:

Sticker charts

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.

Treats

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.

Paper chain

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.

Social media

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.

Brave mom?

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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