Business Travel: Leaving the Little Ones Behind

IMAGE Business travel presents special challenges and opportunities for parents.

Corporate trips offer chances to experience more of the world. But for many of America's business travelers, clinching an important deal can lose some of its appeal when thoughts turn to missed moments with family members. However, if the family commits itself to making the most of the situation, the end result can be quite positive.

Committed to Communication

First off, parents need to work together. Communication and sensitivity to other family members' feelings provide a necessary foundation for turning business travel into a positive family experience.

Meet with your spouse to discuss any feelings, frustrations, and expectations regarding the upcoming business trip. The conversation should include agreements about roles and responsibilities while the traveling spouse is away. Talk about decision making, how to handle emergencies, when to call, and the specifics of the spouse's travel plans.

If parents aren't on the same page, children will notice the disconnect. This may make them even more upset.

Before the Trip

Here are some tips to help your child prepare for your business trip.

  • Mapping the route Discuss the upcoming trip with your child several days before your departure. You may even want to plot out your trip using a wall map in your child's room. Also, if you have mixed feelings about leaving, do not share those feelings with your child. It may cause them to worry. Instead, explain the details of the trip itself so they understand what is happening.
  • Learning about the destination With enough time, parents and children can research facts about the destination through convention and visitor bureau websites, visiting the library to look at picture books, or stopping by the airport to show a youngster an airplane.
  • Counting the days Children want to know how long a parent will be away. Mark the days on a calendar. For younger children, you can place one block for each day on the road in a special container. The child can remove a block each morning. An empty box means that the traveling parent is almost home. Make older children a copy of your travel plans.
  • Planning for your return Give your child something to look forward to, such as a game or project that will begin when you return home.

During the Journey

Here are some tips to use during the journey:

  • Timing it right Keep your child's schedule as normal as possible, even if the parent is traveling in another time zone. It will help the parent who is traveling to know when to time phone calls to avoid disruptions to the child's schedule. For example, it may not be ideal for the parent to call when the child is getting ready for bed.
  • Talking and writing Listen to what the child wants to talk about. Be creative. You may want to read your child a book by phone. On more unpredictable trips, you can text or communicate by email. Encouraging older children to write can help literacy skills.
  • Missing big events Road warriors often miss the joys of a toddler's first steps or a Little Leaguer's game-winning hit. For those events, consider invoking the "Milestone Rule," which means that it doesn't count until you see it. This gives the child an opportunity to celebrate twice. You can also consider creating a keepsake box, where a child can stash artwork or other treasures to show the returning parent.
  • Bringing back souvenirs If you're traveling a lot, bring back something consistent they can collect. Try to find something associated with the destination, such as a miniature Statue of Liberty from New York City or a little trolley car from San Francisco.

Re-entry

Even when travelers are happy to come home, re-entry can be stressful. The longer the traveling parent has been gone, the more the stay-at-home parent has adapted. Sometimes children will act out when the absent parent returns, especially if they feel more comfortable with that person.

Give your child time to adjust. Talk about whatever is on the child's mind. And next time business travel takes you away, let it serve as a way to uncover interesting tidbits about distant locales, start some new traditions, and bring your family closer together.

  • Nemours' KidsHealth

    http://kidshealth.org

  • US Travel Association

    http://www.ustravel.org

  • AboutKidsHealth

    http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

  • Transport Canada

    http://www.tc.gc.ca

  • 4 tips for long distance parenting. Distance Parent website. Available at: http://distanceparent.org/how-to/4-tips-for-long-distance-parenting/. Published June 6, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2013.

  • Long distance parenting. Bannock County website. Available at: http://www.co.bannock.id.us/dmoretip.htm. Accessed October 22, 2013.

  • Long distance parenting. Father and Child website. Available at: http://fatherandchild.org.nz/magazine/issue-6/long-distance-parenting/. Accessed October 22, 2013.

  • Traveling without your child. Nemours' KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/travel%5Fwithout%5Fkids.html. Updated July 2011. Accessed October 22, 2013.