As a traveling dad, I’ve seen how it affects my daughter when I head out on solo trips. Even though it’s only for a few days at a time, when a parent is away for even a short time it can cause stress for kids. Some children will show it more than others, such as my kiddo who already deals with anxiety issues. Admittedly, even I feel a bit of worry when I’m away from my family. Here are a few things you can do to ease stress for your kids when dad travels alone.
Develop a Routine When Dad Travels
The first step to solving many childhood issues is by developing a routine. Begin with getting your kids involved with trip planning. Whether you’re hopping on a jet for a business meeting or plotting course for a road trip, there is always plenty to figure out. Getting kids in on the decision process not only distracts them from the fact that you will be gone, it helps eliminate uncertainty about where you are going. A great side effect is it develops a core life skill for them.
Packing for a trip is a great opportunity to let kids get involved. Depending on age, they can do anything from carting items to your suitcase to helping to pick out and fold clothes. These little touches give kids a sense of control before you leave. As with planning, packing is another great travel skill they will put to good use.
Spend a little extra time with your children before leaving home. Play a game, read a book, or whatever you normally do for quality family time. If you need to leave early in the morning, an extended version of the usual bedtime routine is time well spent. Try to avoid leaving in a hurry, which can leave a sense of unknown in younger kids.
Create a Sense of Importance When Dad Travels
Giving kids tasks to take care of while you’re out of town distracts from anxiety by shifting their focus. Instead of worrying about you being gone, they can take pride in doing an important job in your place. Choose something age appropriate that they can easily handle. It could be anything from feeding a pet to mowing the lawn. If it’s during school season, set them to work on learning a skill or perfecting something they has been giving them trouble.
When you return, they can enjoy showing dad how well they performed their job. It will increase their independence and help prepare for your next trip. Don’t forget to pick up a little souvenir as a reward and reminder. If you’re a frequent traveler, think about starting a collection, such as fridge magnets, to bring home each time.
Create a family tradition for those who are staying home. It could be a movie night, making a special dinner, or inviting friends over. This is a good way to take away any feelings of dad doing something special and everyone else is left out. Let them know how fun it will be and that you feel like you’re the one missing out on the fun times.
Staying Involved While You’re Away From Home
Technology has made it so easy for us to stay involved while traveling. As a dad, I make a point to send some pictures of myself wherever I am so my daughter has a bit of contact. If I’m gone for more than a few days, I’ll call home to see how everyone is doing. If she only stays on the phone for a few seconds to day ‘Hi,’ I know she’s not missing me too much.
Figure out what your kids like. Send selfies, a phone call, or maybe a video chat. Leave behind personal post-it notes for mom to slip into lunchboxes, or maybe hide some where you know kids will discover them during the week. For longer trips, mail a post card your first day. The importance is keeping a tiny bit of connection to make them feel at ease. Dad may not be home, but they know he is doing well and always thinking about them.
Kids, and many adults, get anxiety when traveling away from home. There are so many unknowns in the world and it creates stress when we are out of contact with family members. Hopefully, these tips will help alleviate the stress and make the process more enjoyable for all in your household. Feel free to include your own routines and tips in the comment section to share with other traveling dads.