Monday, October 15, 2018

I miss you! 5 ways to support your toddler or child when you have to travel without them

Leaving your child behind is hard, especially when you are traveling far away. When parents of 19-month-old asked for ideas to support him while they were gone on a trip without him, this was my response:

1. Accept all the feelings
Accept the feelings that come with the process from both sides (I have been dealing with this process myself as I transition my son into preschool). Being apart from each other is hard because you love each other and that shows healthy attachment. This article is helpful for the person staying home with him to support him in this process and specific words to use when feelings arise:

2. Create Family Book
Create a family book or print pictures that the child can have available to look, pick up and hold at any time. Especially in the morning, at bedtime or times when parents are part of his routine. Write a short letter and leave it with the book saying you are on a trip, you will be back in a few days and you love him. Write a note for each day if you feel like it. The caregiver and the child can read it together. Making drawings or writing letters (for older children) to be read when the parents are back from the trip can be cathartic.  

3. Communicate the Plan
Young children do not have a sense of time yet. Tell him the day before what the plan is going to be and who will stay with him during that time.  At 19 months he is young and he will not respond but he will know what to expect. 

4. FaceTime or not FaceTime?
 I think it is ok to FaceTime. Not a million times ;). He might be distracted or not want to talk (which is common at this age) but he will know you called. And if he is sad after the call the person staying with him can remind him you are on a trip, you will be back in a couple of days and offer the family book if he needs it. You can decide the frequency of the calls depending on how he reacts. 

5. How long would you be gone? 
Sometimes having a physical way to know when you will be back can be helpful (example: having 13 blocks on a shelf removing one each day, stickers on a calendar), but at 19 months he might be too young for this one. 

Children are resilient and capable to deal with change even though it might be uncomfortable at times. We all struggle with it, both children and adults, but finding healthy ways of supporting the process will empower everyone involved. 

Safe travels!

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