On Psychology

Jewish World Review June 2, 1999 /18 Sivan, 5759

Dr. Wade Horn

Reassure Child Before Making A Business Trip

By Dr. Wade F. Horn

Q: I am the father of a three year old daughter. My job requires that I travel approximately one week out of every month. What can I do to help my daughter cope with my traveling schedule?

A: Many men (and women) have to travel as part of their jobs. Those that don't do a lot of it, often view business travel as glamorous. Those that do a lot of it, understand that business travel is tedious and tiring.

Business travel can be especially stressful for parents of young children. Tearful scenes as Daddy or Mommy waves bye-bye can tug at the traveler's heart for many miles to come, while the parent left behind can feel lonely, stressed, and deserted.

Econophone Although children of all ages are affected by traveling parents, young children areespecially affected. That's because they have a lesser capacity to understand why Daddy or Mommy is leaving home. Some may even worry that the traveling parent may never return, or that something bad is going to happen while the parent is gone.

For all these reasons, coping with business travel is not easy for young families. Here are some tips for making these separations less difficult for both you and your child:

Prepare your child in advance. Young children can become anxious when Dad or Mom is missing, especially when that absence is prolonged. It is a good idea to give your child an explanation in advance for why you will be gone for a while.

Reassure your child that you will return. Make sure your child understands that your absence is only temporary. One way to do this is to mark a special calendar indicating how long you will be gone and when you will return. Then have your spouse "count" the days until your return by putting a sticker or checkmark on the calendar for each day you are gone.

Tape record a special message or bedtime story for your child. Children are tremendously reassured by the sound of the traveling parent's voice. Tape record yours, and let your child listen to it each day you are gone.

Give your child a "transitional object." Young children find it helpful in managing their anxiety about an absent parent to have a special object that reminds them of that parent. This can be as simple as a picture of you and your child doing something together, or as elaborate as a whole photo album. Or it could be a stuffed animal that you picked out together. It doesn't really matter what it is, so long as it is something special your child can physically hang on to during your absence.

Phone home regularly. I know. Business trips are very tiring. But both your child and your spouse will appreciate the phone call. And be sure that you spend most of the time asking about their day, rather than just talking about yours.

Spend special time with your child upon your return. When you return home, don't just plop down on the couch and turn on the TV. Spend it wrestling with your child on the floor, or sit your child on your lap and listen to how her days went.

Spend some special time with your spouse when you return as well. Don't forget that while you were out running about airports and ordering room service, your spouse was getting your child dressed in the morning, cooking meals, doing the laundry, and cleaning that spot on the rug where your child spilled a glass of grape juice. So remember that when you return, your spouse will need a little special time and attention from you too.

If possible, bring your child along with you. Sometimes, it is possible to combine a business trip with pleasure. As all veteran business travelers know, airplane fares that include a Saturday night stay over, are far more inexpensive that airfares during the week. Some businesses will pay for the added expense of a Saturday night stay over if it results in a substantially cheaper airfare. If so, consider bringing your child on an occasional business trip with you. Even if the trip brings you to Gulf Port, Alabama, instead of Paris, France, your child will be thrilled to be traveling with you and spending time with dad.

Try not to miss special days. Difficulties associated with business travel are compounded if it means missing a child's (or spouse's!) birthday, piano recital, or playoff game. Mark these special days on your calendar at work. Then when travel assignments come up, work hard to avoid missing these important events.

While sometimes missing an important event is unavoidable, the truth is, with enough advance notice employers and clients can -- and frequently do -- adjust to these limitations on your travel. And if your boss refuses to understand why you can't travel to Boise, Idaho, on the evening of your daughter's fourth birthday, perhaps it's time to find a new boss.

JWR contributor Dr. Wade F. Horn is President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and co-author of The Better Homes and Gardens New Father Book. Send your question about dads, children or fatherhood to him C/O JWR


05/24/99: Recognize and Nurture Child's Gifted Abilities
05/06/99: Terrible Twos Signify Time of Important Growth
04/28/99: When a Son BecomesToo Clingy With Dad
04/21/99: Baffling Conclusions About Child Sex Abuse
04/12/99: Teen Deserves Support for No-Sex Stance
03/22/99: Fatherhood hype
03/15/99:Contributions of Dads Cover Many Fronts
03/04/99:Little Girl's Cry for Love of Dad Should be Heard
02/18/99: Divorcing with a 'tude
02/11/99: Basics Remain the Same for Single, Custodial Dads
02/05/99: Failure Today Can Lead to Success Tomorrow
01/14/99: Child Need Limits, Rules as well as Love
01/05/99: Top Ten 'Dad' Movies
12/22/98: Silly, Dangerous Ideas About Child Rearing
11/18/98: Problems Develop When Others Do Parents' Job
10/21/98: Government punishes marriage, pushes cohabitation
10/16/98: Television draws teens into vast wasteland
10/08/98: Sibling Conflict Not A Scream For Parents
9/29/98: Dads, moms both get job done with babies
9/23/98: Sleep tight -- and right!
9/09/98: Daddy?
9/03/98: How much should we tell the kids about The Bill-n-Monica Show?
8/25/98: Having class-clown son is no joking matter
8/05/98: When a marriage goes stale
6/29/98: Do bad 'authority-figures' make good parents?
6/24/98: When to tell the truth
6/17/98: An ode to a dad who stuck around
6/11/98: No-fault divorce and the partner who "wants to make things work"
5/28/98: The oys and JOYS of fatherhood

5/21/98: When child-support becomes a 'catch-22'
5/15/98: Why ‘shacking-up' for marriage's sake fails
5/6/98: Collision with a pathetic reality
4/26/98: It's time parents learned to 'Just Say No!'

© 1998, Dr. Wade F. Horn