A recent survey revealed that 41% of children whose parents travel regularly for work ‘feel sad’, with 22% missing them as soon as they leave. For most business travellers, trips without their little ones in tow are a tough, unavoidable fact of family life, but there are ways to mitigate the guilt and lessen the heartache.
Before you go
Make sure you set aside some time to enjoy a fun family activity together before you leave, like going to the zoo or the cinema, and make plans to pencil in something similar for your return.
Consider leaving little personal notes and sweets or gifts dotted about the house that your kids can find while you’re gone. Perhaps leave one message per day, making it like a family treasure hunt or advent calendar.
Sharing the trip
Prepare your children for the trip by telling them where you’re going and why. Engage them by showing them pictures of the place, showing them where it is on the map and telling them a bit about the local culture. This helps them build a picture in their mind of where you’ll be, making your absence feel less scary, while also being a fun, personal way to educate them about the world.
While you’re away
If your family’s fond of its Apple devices then you’ll want to make the most of the free video chat facility that’s FaceTime, which is incredibly simple to use. If not, there’s always Skype, but bear in mind that you’ll need Wi-Fi or mobile data enabled.
If you’ve got teenagers, there’s a fair chance there’ll be on @Snapchat already, which can be a handy way to send and receive quick-fire, private picture messages.
For total peace of mind while you’re on the move, there are also simple apps like @ImFineApp and I’m OK which rewards children with points every time they check in and share their location. They can then redeem these points for pocket money or other privileges.
There’s no reason why you can’t reverse the process and check in yourself to reassure anxious children back home, especially if your work brings you to potential danger zones.
Postcards & Presents
Apps are all fine and dandy of course, but don’t overlook the value of physical mementoes that clearly show you’re taking the time and trouble to think of your nippers. If you get into the habit of sending regular postcards these could quickly add up to form a scrapbook that your offspring would be proud to brag about.
Bringing back authentic gifts that you couldn’t find easily at home from markets and local shops is another sure winner, giving kids something to anticipate.
Setting boundaries & routines
No good parent wants to neglect their children obviously, but there will be times when you’ll need to focus and block out distractions. It’s also important to give younger children realistic expectations about levels of contact. Try to establish a routine that you know you can stick to, and limit conversations to once or twice a day, perhaps saying goodnight with a special bedtime story call.
When you get home
Show you’re keeping a keen interest in your wee ones by helping them set up a keepsake project box before you go. They can use this to store things they’ve been working on at school, which you can look forward to exploring together on your return.
Of course the beauty of flying into London City Airport is that if you live in London you can usually get back to your nearest and dearest a good deal faster than from other airports!
By Kirsty Knaggs