Some people get so busy providing “the best” for their children that they neglect the children themselves. Conversely, some people feel guilty whenever they leave their children for any reason.
Take heart. However old your kids are, and whether the time you spend apart from them is due to a weekly yoga class, being a noncustodial parent, or just having to send them to school, there are ways to keep them reassured you’ll always be there for them.
Establish a “Goodbye” Routine
When you or another member of the family leaves for school, work, or errands, don’t rush out the door with one over-the-shoulder “Bye,” or wave anyone else out without even looking at them. Take time to say goodbye with a kiss, a word of encouragement, or a comment on how you’ll look forward to seeing them this evening. Leaving someone with a sense of security and expectation, plus a reminder you love them, is always preferable to taking departures and returns for granted.
Leave Little Reminders That You Care
Slip a “love note” into your child’s lunch box. Arrange for the sitter to give them little treats “from Mom.” Promise to say a quick prayer for them whenever you see a family photo or their school colors.
But Don’t Overdo the Reminders
Direct messages in particular—whether phone calls, texts, or emails—easily reach a point where they’re more annoying than reassuring. No one wants to be constantly interrupted with “thinking of you” reminders: before long, they usually conclude you’re only checking up on them because you expect they’ll get into trouble if you turn your back. Your kids want to know you love them, but they also want to feel you trust them and respect their right to live their own lives.
If You’ll Be Gone More Than a Day, Prearrange Specific Times for Direct Contact
Telephoning (or making audiovisual contact) every evening just before bed works for many families—it’s the perfect time to share happenings of today and plans for tomorrow, and it’s almost as good as actually being together. Keep the conversation upbeat; ending the day on a negative note is bad for everyone’s sleep and increases the risk of waking up in a bad mood the next morning.
When you’ll be away for a week or more, consider leaving behind a packet of recordings, notes, or wrapped surprises to be opened daily (if you number them, the kids will also be able to count the days until you get back). And, every few days, send handwritten, snail-mail notes: your children will be delighted that you care enough to go to some low-tech trouble.
Resolve Not to Worry about “Neglect”
There’s no universal formula for how many hours parents should work or at what age kids can handle two weeks of separation. Concentrate on knowing and respecting your children as individuals, and you’ll learn to instinctively recognize how much and what sort of attention they need—whether you’re away or at home.