|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
Traveling Without Your Child
But you can prepare your child before you leave so that both of you can feel more comfortable.
Are Kids Ready?
Kids' readiness to stay at home depends largely on their age. Separation anxiety is common among kids between 6 months and 2 years old. For them, comfort is vital. Make sure they'll feel comfortable with a babysitter while you're gone and keep their normal daily routines going.
If possible, it's better for kids at this stage to stay in their own home while parents are away rather than at someone else's house.
Preschoolers might not understand why a parent is leaving, may worry that they've done something wrong to cause it, and might think that the separation is punishment. So it's important to assure them that this isn't so and to explain the reason for a trip in terms they understand.
Often, preschoolers will react to a parent's trip by regressing to younger behaviors, such as whining or asking for a bottle. If your child responds that way, a reminder from you that the behavior is not appropriate and that you won't change your travel plans can be effective.
School-age kids might more directly show their feelings of sadness or anger about a parent's departure. Kids ages 6 to 8 may feel comforted by something of yours to keep close while you're gone.
Older kids may seem extra-moody about a parent's trip and act angry one moment and clingy the next. So consider scheduling fun activities for them while you're gone. It's important to reassure them that you'll miss them, too, and that you trust that the babysitter will take good care of them.
Teens might feel like they don't even need a babysitter while you're traveling. If you also have younger children, you can explain that the caregiver is there because of them and ask your teen to help the babysitter look after the younger kids while you're gone. If you have only a teen and are not comfortable with leaving him or her alone, it's important to talk about your concerns and explain why you feel more comfortable having someone else in the house. If you do decide to leave your teen alone, set clear rules for the time that you're away. And it's a good idea to have a friend or neighbor look in on your teen while you're gone.
Preparing the Caregiver
If possible, try to have the person caring for your kids visit before you leave. This will help them be more comfortable with that person and your plans to go away. It's also a chance to review the house rules, the kids' daily routines, and other important issues with the caregiver.
Things to cover:
Also consider leaving these with the caregiver:
Stocking the Medicine Cabinet
A well-stocked medicine cabinet should have:
If your child takes medication regularly, make sure there's a sufficient supply and that your caregiver knows how to give it.
Leaving a Paper Trail
Besides your trip details, leave a folder with your child's medical information and these phone numbers:
Important medical information in the folder should include:
While You're Away
Check in with the caregiver regularly, if possible. Think carefully about how much contact will comfort your child while you're away. Some kids might need postcards or a daily phone call, text, or email message, whereas others might get more upset when they hear from the parent they're missing.
Review basic details about your travel plans with your kids before you leave. You can mark your travel dates on a calendar to help them understand how long you'll be gone or instruct the caregiver to cross off each day at bedtime.
Be prepared for your child's behavior when you return. Young kids sometimes feel angry at their parents for leaving and act out or ignore them when they return.
If this happens, provide your child with the same sort of reassurance and discipline that you would in any other situation. Certainly, you should try to hug or kiss your child when you return but don't push it if your child is still angry.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD