Next month I will be leaving to go to the National Foster Parent Conference in Mobile AL. One of the challenges of going out of town [esepcially as a single parent] is the challenge of keeping little [and not so little] ones from feeling abandoned. Even now that my kiddos are older, their past makes them especially quick to feel abandoned even if they are old enough to know intellectually that it isn't true. They are proud that I am going, the teen in some of them is excited that I will be gone, but that small child abandoned too young, still feels adrift when I leave. And... there still seems to be emotional payback when I return.
I try to start way ahead to let them know it is coming. The dates are on the family calendar and I let it drop into conversations. But it always includes that I will miss them while I am gone and that I am not gone for very long. We plan together for the time I am gone.
I have two guidelines: 1- Because when I go I am usually very busy [at a conference or doing research] I do not promise to call at a certain time each day or to send them an email everyday. I sometimes do call or email, but I am very careful not to promise something that might not be possible or realistic. 2- I plan small things that will come at unexpected times and that are not expensive.
Here are three of the tricks we've use to make the preparation and transition in and out of the time away a bit smoother:
--Photos: I put a framed pictures of me by their beds, sometimes next to a book they have chosen for the sitter to read.
--Notes:I tuck little pictures or notes or both in "hiding" places for them to find while I am gone. [Under their pillow, in a sneaker, inside the freezer on the ice cream container!, in their jacket pocket, etc.]
--Surprises: I make an envelope-a-day for them to open from me. Inside is some small trinket [stickers, pack of gum, wrapped life saver,etc.] Also inside may be a privilege or a task or just a note.
I don't do all three, but I do something. Something they can look forward to and enjoy while I am away.
I am a lifelong educator, writer and author, a foster, bio, and adoptive parent, happy mom of five daughters, Grandma to six, Nana to four, and church and theater musician. Oh yes, and all-round optimistic, crazy lady.