Has it been difficult to go on a business trip because when you leave the house and you are torn between your children’s pleas to not leave an your responsibility to your job? This can be a gut wrenching experience that causes undue stress. So what can we do to make the experience less traumatizing for mom and kids?
A few tricks I’ve learned over the years include setting the tone and expectations about the trip.
Setting the tone refers to checking-in with your own attitude about the trip. It’s natural for your children to be sad you will be going away. You are their world. By departing on a trip their separation anxiety can be intense. There is a fine line between having compassion and understanding their feelings and falling prey to their concerns and magnifying them.
Instead of echoing how much you will miss each other, try talking about how fortunate you are to experience new things. This emphasizes the positive aspects of travel instead of feeding the negative feelings associated with departing. Yes, you will miss them and you love them, AND (avoiding saying “but”) you are excited to learn new things to share when you get back.
Setting expectations refers to how children interpret where you are going and how long you will be away. To them, time and distance can be incomprehensible. What a great opportunity to capitalize on a teachable moment!
I label a piece of paper for each day of the week I travel (“Monday, Tuesday, etc.”). In the upper corner I draw a sunshine if I’m traveling in the day, and a moon if I’m traveling at night. Then I draw a very amateur shape of the geographic area I’m traveling, mostly the United States.
I draw a home approximately where Colorado is on my map, illustrating where we live. I draw an arrow pointing to a star that indicates my end destination. Then I explain the name of the city, what state it is in and how long it will take the airplane to fly to that location.
The days I’m flying, I draw an airplane, and the kids get to choose where I sit (and I draw a little stick figure in that window). The days I’m staying in a hotel, I draw a building with lots of windows and the kids get to choose what room I’m staying in (again, a little stick figure). This gives them a sense of control and involvement.
While I’m gone, they tear down every page that goes by so they can see what I’m doing on those days and how soon I will be home. As a bonus, they learn about time, days of the week, and geography. Even one-year-olds seem to reap the benefit of this exercise even though they may not fully understand. As a bonus, my older children have taken over the duties of drawing the pictures and give me homework to do while I’m away to learn new things!