My husband and I are going out of town without the kids for two days. This is a very rare occurrence in our family and it causes a fair amount of stress in a normal month. Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been anything but normal. First the devastating Krim family murders, then Hurricane Sandy, and finally a Nor’easter just for good measure. Our hometown of New York City has been shaken to its core. That makes this time apart from the kids that much more unsettling. Together we’ve found the following tips to be invaluable in easing the transition at home:
1. Mark the calendar. Since starting nursery school my son is obsessed with the days of the week. He asks me every day, “what day in [November] is this?” “Today is Thursday, November 8th,” I respond. About a week in advance I let my son in on our trip. I told him which day we would be leaving, which day we would return and we marked the days on the calendar. We look at them every once in awhile, keeping the conversation light and all about learning.
2. Let them know who will be taking care of them. Due to conflicting schedules, it is going to take a small team of people to carry us through this trip. I have been getting my kids excited about an old sitter coming over to help. We’ve talked about the fun things she used to do with them and they are looking forward to the treat. My parents are also helping and they might be my son’s favorite people on earth. I know that they will be in good hands all around and they know it too.
3. Allow them to express their feelings. Every time we have talked about it, my son has told me he is going to miss me while I am gone. It pains me to hear that. Part of me wants to sweep it under a rug and ignore it. I want to tell him, “No, you won’t miss me, you’ll be having a great time!” But it is important to allow him the space to get it out. I listen and acknowledge his feelings fully before trying to point out the special experiences he can expect.
4. Give them an outlet for their emotions while you are gone. After talking about feelings, I remind both children that if they are sad while I am gone they can hug a favorite stuffed animal specially designated as the “stand-in mommy.” My daughter especially loves this. She has given her elephant a big kiss every night and said “night, night mama.”
Thankfully, our three-year-old and one-year-old are not fully aware of the challenges the past few weeks have presented, so it is our task to maintain the calm and steer the ship properly. These small gestures have brought a lot of comfort in an otherwise anxious time.