Be it for business or pleasure, leaving your kids behind is not the easiest thing to do when you travel, but Guest editor Hayley Malan says that with a little bit of planning and some creativity, the time apart can in fact be an exciting time for everyone!
My eldest was just a couple of months old when I had to travel for work. It was just for a couple of days, but it was quite the teary departure with multiple goodbyes. However, after a few more trips we kind of got used to it.
Fast forward five years and a second child later, and my husband and I have learned how to make those goodbyes go a lot more smoothly and come up with tactics for making Mom or Dad’s time away from home manageable for all parties involved.
I recently embarked on a solo vacation to Europe, which was amazing, but it was for two full weeks and it was the longest time that my kids and I were apart. Cue the mom guilt … Saying goodbye at the airport was probably the hardest part of it all.
I think that preparing a child for your travels depends a lot on their age, personality as well as your family situation. Every child and every family is different, however here are some ideas to prepare you for a child-free trip.
Don’t talk too soon
A mistake that I sometimes made was mentioning a trip at the wrong time or too far in advance! This causes unnecessary stress for little ones.
My kids, who are now four and six, still don’t completely understand the concept of time, so I’ve learnt that too many details about how many days until I leave or how many days I’ll be gone away for, will just stress them out!
With my recent trip, I just casually mentioned it a few times prior to leaving, but about a week before I left I gave them more details. I showed them a map of where I would be travelling to, where I would be staying and what I would be doing, and it actually got them excited about the trip!
Before I left for Europe, I left a little countdown calendar for the kids, with small gifts and notes to unravel. They could only open one each day, kind of like an advent calendar. They were excited to see what each day would bring and with every opening, it meant a day closer to seeing Mom!
Keep the routine
For my last trip, my husband and our support structure at home really gave the kids plenty of comfort and support while I was travelling. They got the reassurance they needed that life would carry on as usual.
The kids went to school as usual, they attended their extra-murals, the same rules applied and everything remained consistent. My husband did spoil them a little bit, but overall the usual routine applied so that the days remained familiar and predictable as far as possible.
Technology is your best friend
It’s 2020 and there’s absolutely no reason to not be connected. Staying in touch via phone, email, video calls makes things a lot easier.
However if you’re travelling abroad, you need to figure out what works best for the kids as well as your travel schedule. You have to take into account what the time differences are, factor in flight delays as well as work commitments.
These factors can sometimes make connecting a bit tricky. So my tip would be not to promise to call if there’s any chance it won’t happen, or there might be some unhappy campers at home…
Video calls worked well for me and the kids on my recent trip. They could get a view of where I was and what I was up to. I tried to make sure I was able to call about an hour before their bedtime each day, but when I knew it wasn’t possible I would let them know.
We also sent each other videos and voice notes. The kids had a lot of information that they wanted to convey to me – about their school day and what they’ve done, and it was also a great way for me to show and tell them the cool things I was seeing and doing!
Overall, I think that with a little bit of creativity and sensitivity, as a family, you can figure out the best way to prepare your children for your travels and figure out the best ways to feel connected when you’re not close by.
About the author: Hayley Malan is a mom to Aidan (4) and Alyssa (6). She blogs about momlife at hayleysjoys.co.za