Getaway Guilt

Help your child (and caregiver) get ready for your absence. Then enjoy your trip!

At long last, you and your spouse have made plans for a much-needed weekend by yourselves. Before you pack, take a little time to organize your child's schedule and prepare him for your departure. These tips from parents who travel often for business will help reassure your little one and eliminate guilt.

  • Prepare a memo for your child's caregiver (whether it's a relative, friend, or babysitter) with household instructions, pediatrician and insurance information, emergency numbers, and the phone number and address of your hotel. Discuss your child's favorite foods and activities and outline her daily routine.
  • Talk with your child about your trip, even if he's too young to really understand the details. Post a map with a stick-on dot that shows where you're going and a calendar with pictures of some of the activities you've planned for him each day that you're away (include simple things like going to the park, having a playdate, or getting ice cream). For several days before you leave, chat cheerfully about all the fun things that will happen "when Grandma comes to stay with you for the weekend." Be sure to say good-bye to your child, even if you have to do so at bedtime the night before an early departure.
  • If you'll be away for more than two days, give your child a package of stickers, small toys, or a paper chain that includes the same number of items as days you'll be gone. Your child can remove or use one item each day and count how many are left until you'll be back.
  • Leave a series of notes and ask your caregiver to share one with your child each day. Encourage your little one to draw a picture for you every day to share when you return.
  • Plan calls home carefully. One call a day is usually plenty, and it's best to avoid the moments before bedtime. Keep the conversation short and upbeat, and emphasize that you'll be home soon.
  • If you want to bring your child a gift, choose a small remembrance of the trip rather than something expensive that can lead to expectations of a big present every time you go away.
  • Don't be surprised if it takes a while to return to your usual routine after the trip. It's perfectly normal for your child to be dismissive or even seem to reject you upon your return. This will pass, and all will be forgiven in a few days.

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