Magazine article Work & Family Life

Staying Close (from a Distance) When Parents Travel

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Staying Close (from a Distance) When Parents Travel

Article excerpt

Des your job - or your spouse's - involve travel? D For a growing number of parents, when Dad goes away, Mom is also away all day on her job. Or when Mom takes a business trip, Dad carries on at home without her.

Guilt comes with the territory

Making sure all the pieces fit while you're away takes a lot of planning before you leave and a lot of checking while you're away. But even the most organized parents experience guilt when they travel - over missing a birthday or a soccer game or leaving kids in the care of someone new.

If the trip is part of your job, giving in to guilty feelings is unproductive. One way to cope is to make the distinction between feeling "bad" or "sad" and feeling guilty. Look at the situation as a problem to be solved: Who else might go to your 8-year-old's soccer game and take pictures or make a video for you to watch with your child when you return?

Age makes a big difference in how children respond to parents' traveling. A 5-year-old might give you a hard time while a 14-year-old may be thrilled to have you away for a few days.

But, whatever the age of your child, try not to communicate ambivalence about going away. This makes it harder for kids to separate from you and gives them a signal to push your "guilty button."

Here are some tips for making your business travels easier on everyone.

Before you leave

TODDLERS. Since toddlers don't understand "yesterday," "today" or "next week," it's best to wait until the night before to say you're going. Do it with a minimum of fuss. Say, for example: When I'm away I'll talk to you every day, just before your bath.

PRESCHOOLERS. Tell your child about your trip a week or so before you go so he or she can digest the idea and ask questions. Talk about leaving and returning in terms of your child's schedule: "While Daddy is giving you breakfast, I'll be taking the train to Washington."

SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN. Say where youre going how long you'll be away when you know your plans. Look up your destination on a map together and leave time to plan for homework assignments or activities that will take place while you re away. Be aware that kids may worry about your safety. Share details about who will be with you, where you 11 stay and how you'll keep in touch.

While you are away

TODDLERS. Call at the same time every day but don't be surprised if your child doesn't want to talk to you. Just let her or him hear your voice and know that you're okay. Keep up your goodbye rituals: "See vou later alligator" or "Good night, sleep tight, I love you. …

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