It can be hard enough to keep a connection to your kids when you’re busy doing the 9-5 grind. But then add some work-related travel into the mix, and staying connected gets that much harder. Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, offers 10 ways to stay connected to your child when you travel for work.
Prepare your child in advance.
Letting your child know last-minute that you’re going to be traveling for work can be overwhelming. So show your kid on a calendar when you’re going away—and more importantly, when you’re coming back. Your child can then mark each day that you’re gone and then count the days until your return.
Do some due diligence together.
Explaining the purpose of your trip can soothe some jitters, according to Walfish. In fact, researching your trip together can help your child feel more comfortable with you going away.”Older kids can even make a school project and class presentation about the trip,” says Walfish. “This helps your child feel a part of the travel and more connected when you’re away.”
Make a “thinking of you” box.
Similar to the Kissing Hand concept, you can make a special “thinking of you” box that your child can break out while you’re away on business. You can make this box together, or make it as a special surprise for your son or daughter. Then fill the box with pictures, clippings, and notes from you to her; and mementos that remind your child of good times you’ve spent together.
Phone it in.
Depending on the age of your child, calling can help keep the connection strong. But calling at all different hours can be chaotic for both your and your child’s schedule, so try to set a time each day to reach out—and stick to it as best you can. Avoid trigger times, such as right before going to school or bedtime, as those can be more vulnerable times for younger children and possibly trigger an increase in separation anxiety. So stick to times when you know your child will be upbeat, and keep your calls consistent.
Print out some pics.
Young children especially might like to keep a photo of the traveling parent next to their bed. If the photo is of the parent and child sharing a good time, even better. Through it, your child is reassured that even if you’re not here right now, you’ll be back soon.
Send email or text message.
An individual email or text sent just to an older son or daughter also helps ease the transition, as long as every child who is age appropriate also receives an email just for them. The same cookie-cutter words and messages sent to each child won’t cut it. The emails do not have to be long, just targeted and sincere. The texts can be a simple “I love you. Can’t wait to see you Friday night.” This texted to an older child who has a cell phone makes them feel loved and special.
Give your child something of yours.
For little ones who might miss snuggling with Mommy or Daddy, giving your child something of yours to hold onto can help ease anxiety and fears. It does not have to be a t-shirt or other piece of clothing, but Walfish points out, “The smell of clothing worn by the absent parent adds an extra layer of comfort.” Whatever it is, let your child know how special he or she is to you and that you are always thinking of them when you are away.
If you wake up your little one at 7:00 each morning, try to do the same when you’re away for work. For example, you might call at that time to wish her good morning, or you could opt to Facetime at night and read Goodnight Moon together before bed.
Make it special.
Give your child something to look forward to beyond your return. You might plan an event for when you’re back. It could be something as simple as a trip out for ice cream, or playtime in the park, but it should be an outing for just the two of you.
Take your child with you—virtually.
Just as you might leave something of yours for your child, you can also take one of your child’s toys on your trip. For fun, you can take pics of her teddy bear sitting in on a board meeting, or having lunch with some remote colleagues, and send them to your child. Your child will not only have fun seeing the adventures that her toy is taking, but also feel connected to you until you return.