Keeping in touch with kids when you travel

Preparing your kids for when you leave home for work- related trip and staying in touch while on-the-road, is essential.

No matter how long or short the trip, tiny tots as well as older children need reassurance - that you are coming back!

The suitcase which suddenly appears in the hallway, without warning can set-off a stream of upsetting emotions for little people who need to know in the days leading up to the trip - where you are going, staying, why, how long, who with and what gift "might" you be bringing home!

Tiny tots won't really remember the details, but the fact that the trip has been discussed naturally and involved them at some level over a period of time, will make your absence seem a little less of a major-shift in their "circle of security" at home.

Regardless of your destination, be it on the other side of the world or a two-day conference in a Sydney hotel, you need to remain involved in your children's lives to reassure them, that you always care what they are up to - even when you are not there.

Use some of the following tips to minimise kiddy distress while you are away, or melt-downs on your return home.

Before your next work trip.

  • Tell your children where you are going and of its importance.
  • Give older children a calendar to use to follow your trip itinerary.
  • Leave notes hidden in a school bag or under their pillows.
  • For tiny tots leave a funny drawing or photograph of yourself pinned to the soft toy which sits on their bed, stuck to the fridge with a magnet, or a stick-it note with a smiley-face stuck to the mirror near their toothbrush - to see each night before going to bed.

While you are away

  • Keep in touch - mail a postcard or fax a drawing or message - e-mail older children.
  • Go away with a knowledge, of what your kids will be doing while you are away. From the start of their first swim class as a tiny tot, to swimming in the school carnival as a teenager! Whatever the milestone - you need to know and make contact to find out how it all went.

Coming Home

  • When you return, don't immediately try to reassert your own rules and ways of doing things.
  • Spend more time and attention than usual listening to what has happened over past days or weeks.
  • Buy little gifts - this shows you were thinking of them. NO gift makes up for your absence, it just reconfirms you were thinking of them, while you were away.

Make strategic decisions with your partner about each others routines and jobs. Both parents cannot travel frequently without the family dynamic being a muddle for little children. If a new job demands travel for a short or long time-frame, there is a need to involve extended family and friends to provide a sense of security for your kids.
In a perfect world it is best to avoid, being away too much when children are tiny or being out of town for birthdays.

Finally - remember that whatever you do, you really can't win back the time lost from travel. Waving a white flag as you come in the front door, while dragging a suitcase full of gifts , will not prevent the "fall-out" which can occur when you have been away for more than a few days. Children may not say anything at all, but they will probably be clingy, attention seeking and temperamental, in an effort to stock-up on any attention they missed while you were away. Calm will return after the storm - just brace yourself for the comes with the territory of being a travelling parent!

Resource: Fathering From the Fast Lane by Bruce Robinson (Finch)

This article was first published in Claudia's column in the Body & Soul liftout of the Sunday Telegraph