Dear Dr. Karol,
I travel for my job and I found that as my daughter has gotten older, she gets pretty upset when she knows I am leaving for a trip. Any suggestions?
- Prepare her ahead of time. Give her at least a few days’ notice and explain why you have to go and that you always come back.
- Create a transition object such as an identical necklace that you both have - use your imagination. You may want to tell her that every time she touches the necklace you will know she is thinking of you and that you will touch your necklace as a sign. When my husband travels, my 3 year-old son gets very upset. I tell him if he wants to see daddy he has to close his eyes and imagine he is here telling him a story. While his eyes are closed I do a guided imagery. I use the words that my husband uses, describe his facial features and his smile and tell a story that usually my husband tells him. It helps my little guy to connect with his dad even though he is physically not here.
- Make a big deal and a big plan about what the two of you will be doing when you come back. Children live in the present; they have a hard time thinking about the future. So when you leave all she thinks is “mommy is leaving”. So remind her about the fun activity you will do when you come back.
- Express your feelings honestly, using simple words. This will teach her that sadness, anger anddisappointment are feelings just like happiness and joy and that they are OK to feel. Allow her to express her feelings.
- Make sure that she likes the person who will take care of her in your absence.
- Involve dad or your partner more and encourage your child to see this time as a special daddy and me time.
Karol Nechushtan, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with the focus on family therapy. Dr. Nechushtan lives in Los Angeles greater area and has two young children. She has her own private practice and is also available for phone consultations. You can visit her at: www.doctorkarol.com.
- And most importantly, bring back a present. No matter how much they love you, children still love to get presents and will look forward to seeing what you bring them when you come back.