Many parents travel for work, and telling your child at the right time is key to them developing a sense of trust and understanding with you. If you help your child set expectations and are straightforward, work travel does not need to be an emotional event for anyone. Planning ahead can also allow parents and children to maximize quality time when the parent returns home.
A few easy tips will help parents communicate travel plans with children effectively. Tell your child in advance, but not so far in advance that it will be confusing or may cause unnecessary anxiety because of anticipation. For very young children, a day or two in advance is probably enough notice. As children get older and the parent may be missing some regular activities, a few days or a week notice can be helpful. Use your judgement, and perhaps a calendar, to best prepare your child.
Explain where you are going and why you need to travel. This builds open communication and demonstrates to children that they are important. Having a map of the world to mark the travels of all members of the family with pushpins can be a fun way to engage everyone in this. It can also help with geography.
Children often have questions about what will happen while their parents are gone, or who will be there to take them to activities or for special events. Walking them through the day will help them visualize these moments. This also gives the traveling parent a chance to hear about the important things happening in the child’s life. The parent and child can make plans together to do something special when they are reunited, perhaps something that the child picks.
Children are resilient and can adjust to new situations as long as they feel safe, confident and know what is expected of them. By talking about travel plans, children feel empowered and informed. With a bit of thoughtful conversation, a parent can leave feeling confident, too, knowing that everyone is on the same page despite the distance between them.