My boyfriend and I have been together for about 3.5 years now. He has a 4.5 year old daughter from a pervious relationship that went sour. Although my boyfriend does not have sole custody of her, we see her regularly and I have a wonderful relationship with her. My boyfriend is currently a sous chef, and has made the decision to attend a very prestigious culinary program out of state for 13 months; he will be leaving in the beginning of January.
I have been doing a lot of research on how we should discuss this with her, books to read to her, etc. But everything I am finding is more applicaple to dads who have permanently left the family, or dads who have been deployed. I am wondering if anyone has any experience on fathers leaving temporarily. I have found some information on fathers being deployed to be helpful, but I guess I'm looking for advice which relates more to our situation.
She will have opportunities to visit him, and he will visit as often as he can. I will make sure they are able to skype with eachother etc, to make it easier on them. But I just don't know how we should go about discussing this with her. I know it is inevitable for her to feel anxious, I just want to make sure she knows she's not being abandoned.
My father left for 12 months when I was 7 - not exactly toddler, but young enough that it left a big impact on me. This is how I would pose the issue:
1) Have Daddy tell her that he loves her a lot, but that he has to go away for a year to do something very important. And that he is doing it so that he can spend lots of time in the future with her
2) Tell her that he will work on getting her a really nice present when he comes home
3) Ask her what she would like to do before daddy leaves, what she thinks will be "special" for her and daddy, and then make sure its just the two of them that do it, and document it with pictures and video that she can keep with her.
4) Give her something special before he leaves, and tell her that everytime she misses daddy, to look at or touch or play with that special thing
5) Make sure they facetime or Skype every week.
6) Talk to her about Daddy and what he is doing that is so important and keep talking to her frequently during his absence.
Best of luck. She will be sad, but I do think that talking to her about it will help!