Parenting: Helping Kids Cope With Business Trips

business-trips

Mike travels quite a bit for work. We would love to have him home all the time, but we’re very grateful that he has a good job (especially in this economy!), and that he even gets to work in a field that he loves. I also know that the travel Mike does is nothing compared to what military families deal with!

Having a parent who is constantly coming and going can be stressful for kids, so here are seven things that we’ve learned help:

  • Communicate as much as is possible. Cell phones make this easy so long as Mike stays in the country, and this year we cashed in his frequently flier miles for a tablet so he can do webcam with us from anywhere in the world, so long as he has Wi-Fi access!
  • Learn about where the parent is going. We try to check out library books about wherever it is Mike is traveling to.

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  • Find ways to keep the parent involved, even from a distance. Mike started drawing Notes From Dad because he was leaving for work before the kids were up. He still draws them every day when he’s in town, and he has also started drawing them for when he travels – he will draw a whole bunch before he leaves and then I set them out every night, so the kids still wake up to them and feel like they got to interact with him every day. Johnny and Lily spend hours laying out their notes, and they even make them interact as if they were toys.
  • Tell kids what is happening, but not too soon. Talking about an upcoming trip too early can cause unnecessary stress. We tend to start talking about it a day or two before Mike leaves.
  • Combine news about a parent leaving with special activities with that parent, or a family outing (a walk counts as an outing). This way the kids feel less abandoned, and they are left with a happy memory.
  • Plan fun activities for while they’re gone. It distracts the kids, and it helps prevent “the traveling parent is the fun parent” syndrome. Business Trip Cake is always a hit with my kids! :)
  • Make a countdown chart or chain. This is especially helpful with longer trips. We have done countdown chains with activities written on each link – and sometimes with activities written only on random links.

What are your best tips for dealing with a parent having to travel?

 

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

32 thoughts on “Parenting: Helping Kids Cope With Business Trips”

  1. Mark has always traveled too! In fact, for a about 5 years he was only home on Sunday! And through it all we never skyped! :( I can’t believe it! We are now on skype…and we will be doing that forever now! We would love to talk to your kids sometime!

  2. Thankfully Jeff doesn’t really have to travel, but he does occasionally work late. On those nights going to have dinner with him at work, or taking the time to call him before the kids go to bed.

  3. I love the countdown chart/chain idea. I went to a women’s conference in FL over the summer and left my 18 month old with my hubby. It was the first time I had been away from my little and it was TOUGH. We had just finished nursing about two weeks before. We skyped every night while I was gone and they looked at pictures of me. My son was excited to see my on the computer and seemed happy. He did well while I was gone according to all reports. The morning after I returned, my husband brought him to me while I was still in bed. I was so excited and I thought my little would be happy to see me, too. He was actually very apprehensive and did not want to be given to me. It took us several days to reconnect. It was hard, but I knew that he didn’t understand why I had been gone. We just took it at his comfort level and things returned to normal over the next few weeks.

    I think these suggestions could be well adapted to military families as well.

    1. I think it’s often hard for little ones to reconnect after a parent has been gone – but they do if you take it at their pace!

  4. Elisa | blissfulE

    My dad travelled a bit for work when I was young. I remember one time when he was gone for weeks, and my mum decided to paint the back door (which meant it was open overnight). After she went to bed, my sister and I set up elaborate string-bell-and-furniture booby traps for all the people we were certain would break into our home with the door open. We thought we were helping, but my mum was of a different opinion when she got tangled up in the morning!

    It was always nice when DaD brought back some local coins after an international trip (which were usually the longer ones).

  5. I remember when my husband was on the road weekly – the kids were young and were ‘born’ into the lifestyle but I do remember that it was hard to shift routines (and plan around air travel when things got cancelled). I love some of your ideas for connecting – the daily notes are just so amazing! I’m sure the kids can make a book of those and what a great ‘special’ tradition that they will remember for years to come. And it is so nice to have Skype now. When my hubby travels, he always brings home something fun (hotel stationary, fun things from a conference,etc. and the kids play “office” with the items :)

  6. I love the notes for the kids to wake up to. That is such a great idea. We do the count down chain – seeing it get shorter and counting out the links really helps my girls visualize how many more sleeps until Dada is home but I’ve never added activities – we will have to try that.

  7. In our family I’m the one who has to travel for work. I always try to leave a card under my daughter’s pillow since bedtime can be when she misses me the most. Sometimes she will talk on the phone to me, sometimes she will skype, but that took a while. She is 5 now.

    I appreciate the story from the mom who had to reconnect with her 18 month old. It can be so emotionally hard for little ones who don’t understand about trips. Thanks for sharing that.

  8. Aw, I love your notes from dad tip. I don’t travel at all, and my husband has thankfully not had to travel in a while. When he did, we did a lot of phone calls and he even read one of my son’s favorite books over the phone (that he had memorized) while I turned the pages for him. And when he got back, we planned lots of daddy and son time too.

  9. These are fabulous ideas, MaryAnne! We were lucky that my husband didn’t have to travel for business, and we we were able to do a lot of travel together as a family. When our daughter was living in England, though, we fell in love with Skype. Fortunately, she and her husband are in the United States now, but I’m planning to use Skype a lot again when I have grandkids. I pinned your post to my Helping Kids Cope Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/helping-kids-cope/

    1. Skype is wonderful! We actually use Google video chat even more now, it’s so easy if you already use gmail :)

      Thank you for pinning my post!

  10. I love the Notes from Dad idea…too cute! When my husband or I have to travel, we send postcards home with landmarks of where we are. My uncle who’s in the military started this tradition when I was younger – he’d send postcards from where ever he was stationed/deployed and I’d have to guess where he was. It’s a fun tradition from my childhood that I’m glad to share with my kids.

  11. I love the notes Mike makes – I need to leave some for Anna when I go on business trips. We try to treat them as “no big deal” and keep things as close to “as usual” as possible. Anna prefers to know in advance that I am going, it gives her time to get used to the idea. Sometimes Lars also plans something extra nice for the weekend to keep her and himself busy.

  12. The notes from Dad are a really cute idea & Skype is a lifesaver. My husband is gone for 8-11 weeks then home for one, so he and our son talk as much as they can – usually a Skype date one or two nights a week, as long as my husband is somewhere that he has Internet or phone service (which is about two thirds of the time). My husband always brings one of my son’s trains or cars with him so they can “play” over Skype when they do get to talk. They do both take a day to adapt to being around each other again every time dad comes home – husband is used to being alone or with grown ups and little man is used to having mom all to himself :-)

  13. I cannot tell you how wonderful this post is and what perfect timing it has!
    My husband and I are pregnant with our first, and we’re really excited, but my husband just took a fantastic job offer almost 3 hours away and will only be coming home on weekends for the first year or two until we decide what we’re going to do logistics wise.

    These are great ideas, so thank you:)

  14. Thanks for the great tips! My husband travels about 50% of the time (sometimes more, sometimes less) and my daughter who is 9 is really having a hard time with it lately. She refuses to talk to him on the phone when he’s gone because she says it makes her miss him more. I try to do fun things when Dad is gone and keep the routine pretty normal, but other than that I really don’t know what else to do to help her. When my husband is traveling for work, he is required to work longer hours than normal and has little time to connect with us. I would love to hear ideas that anyone could offer me. Thanks!

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