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.
- 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?