10 ways to help your children deal with separation
I moved recently and, while I hate moving, it’s a great opportunity to go through those boxes that you haven’t looked at since the last move and figure out what you no longer need. One of those boxes I opened contained a treasure trove of presents that my dad brought back on his travels. My dad didn’t travel for work all that often, so when it he did it was a big deal. Each trip was marked with a gift—T-shirt from St. Simmons Island in Georgia, a blue coral jewelry box from the Philippines, and numerous post cards.
Don’t worry, that box came with me. I couldn’t get rid of those treasures!
While my siblings and I loved getting those gifts when my dad returned, they didn’t make him being gone any easier. Today, it’s a lot more common for parents to be separated from their children multiple times a year and those separations are hard. When one parent is away it disrupts the whole entire family dynamics: The kids don’t obey as quickly; They don’t sleep through the night; and, things that never used to be a problem became a major problem.
How do you make those separations—small and large—easier?
We’ve rounded up 10 ways beyond notes or small gifts to keep in touch and lessen a child’s separation anxiety.
- Read Together. Do you read to your kids at home? Take that tradition on the road. Pack a second copy of your children’s favorite books and read to them via Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc. It may not be not feasible to read to them every night. When that happens, film yourself reading the book and let whomever is at home share it at bedtime or anytime they miss that parent.
- Connect. Use Skype, FaceTime, phones, SnapChat, etc. to check in everyday. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, actual face interaction is important and allows your children to know they are a priority in your life.
- Include your kids in your travel. Make your family a part of your travels by bringing a family photo and including it in your selfies or pictures of famous landmarks. Don’t like selfies? Create daily video or picture logs of what you saw or what you did. These daily logs are a great way to introduce your children to different cultures and people as well as making your children feel they are a part of your journey.
- Establish traditions. Make separations extra special by establishing a “mommy/daddy’s away” tradition. Things like camping in the family room, trip to a favorite restaurant, or small presents everyday turn will turn that separation into something fun and turn something not so fun into something fun.
- Stick to routine—as much as possible. It may seem like the perfect time to relax, but sticking to a routine helps allay your children’s fears. If you can include the away parent in the routine, even better!
- Mommy/daddy and me book. Create a book for each child that includes pictures of them with the away parent that they can look at when they miss them. Update the book frequently.
- Come up with a theme song. In baseball, when a player comes up to bat they get a theme song. Have your child come up with one for each parent that they can listen to when they feel lonely and miss that parent.
- Create a to-do list for when the parent returns. Creating a list allows your children to look forward to when mom or dad returns and not focus as much on them being gone. The list doesn’t need to be fancy. Things like having hot dogs for dinner or watching a movie together.
- Bring back a souvenir. Kids especially love receiving presents, and bringing them back something reinforces that you were thinking of them and missed them.
- Send postcards. Sending a text is great, but a postcard takes extra time and translates into a visual reminder of a parent’s love for them. My dad always sent a new postcard each day and it was always a rush to the mailbox each day to get those postcards.
Wether the separation is long or short, we hope these ideas make the time pass more quickly.