Sunday, January 18, 2009

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Dealing with Separation Anxiety When Parent Travels

Dear Travel Gear Guru –

I’m the Mom of a 3-year-old and, due to a promotion, my new job will take me out of town on overnight travel for the first time since Becca was born. We have an Au Pair who lives with us, and I really trust her with Becca, but I’m so upset at the thought of leaving my little daughter. I’m trying not to let it show, because I don’t want her to get more upset than necessary, but I’m really anxious! Can you offer some suggestions?

Carolynn W., Atlanta, GA.

Dear Carolynn –

Congratulations on your promotion! While you must be delighted at the reason for your travels, it’s understandable that you’d be upset about leaving your daughter and family. Although she’s only three, it’s important that you be honest with Becca about your absence, stressing that it’s for your job. Sometimes young children get the misperception that the parent has gone away because they were naughty. Through honesty, you can ensure this idea never even enters Becca’s head!

Here are some ideas that work well with young children:

-->Give Becca her own family photo album to look at, sleep with, etc.

-->Include her in the packing process. Leave something meaningful of yours with her and let her give you something small of hers “to take care of until I get back,” to reassure her of your return. Make a ritual of exchanging treasures when you get back.

-->Record a message with a bedtime story or song for every night that you’ll be away, to be played before bedtime.

-->Set “an appointment” each day to call your family and stick to it, no matter what you are doing. Even in the middle of a busy meeting, you can excuse yourself to go to the ladies’ room and make a quick phone call.

-->Bring back a small item to give your daughter upon your return, not as an apology for being away, but as a symbol that you were thinking about her during your trip (this is great for husbands and Au Pairs too, by the way!).

Carolynn, you’ll enjoy your travels more once you and your family develop meaningful activities and rituals that ease the separation.

The Travel Guru

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1 comment:

Carol White Llewellyn, The Finger Lakes Travel Maven said...

When my daughters were little and I had to travel overnight, I created a little "gift" for each night I'd be gone. It might be a funny picture I drew or a photo, sometimes a note or occasionallly a small gift, like a picture book delivered at bedtime by my husband, along with "a hug and kiss from Mommy," to let my daughters know I was thinking of them. It really helped all of us feel more connected while I was gone.