Letter from nurse: Explaining parent(s) absence, due to work travels to your child and how to better involve them in the process
Dear Hui Xin families,
As an international kindergarten we understand that many of our family members hold jobs that require them to travel frequently. When a parent is absent from home for an extended period of time, it can be a cause for a child's anxiety, stress or emotional difficulty. There are some very simple practices, that help to address such issues pro-actively.
- The parent who travels, should let their young child (2-6) know a maximum of 2-3 days ahead of time. Older children are more able to plan ahead and it is recommended to let them know on a calendar or 4-5 days ahead of time.
- The parent who travels, should explain the reason for travelling and give basic information, thereby letting children feel that there is a logical reason for when a parent leaves and that there is a certain routine to travelling (where are you going? country? city? how will you get there? car? train? plane? how long time will it take? what's the weather like there? what will you do there? etc.)
- If possible, use visuals to explain your travel. Use a calendar to mark days and dates (on the refrigerator? teach time concepts is a great additional skill practice). If you travel far, show it on a map or in a book. Your child can very much learn from your work, if you involve them.
- It is important that both parents (and grandparents/ayi) are on the same page. If parents argue over extended absences or too short notices it will create anxiety and affect your child similarly. Be confident and strong! Don't make goodbye's long, give a kiss or hug, stay simple and positive "Have fun while I am away, I love you, I miss you and I will see you soon!
- Use phone calls and video calls deliberately. Arrange a daily "check-in" call, if possible, and stick to it. After child's dinner and shower at 19:00-19:30 is ideal, but allow enough buffer that it does not take away from your child's regular bed-time routines, such as reading goodnight stories. If your child is older or your absence is more frequent and time zones make it hard to match up while you are away record daily videos to share.
- Don't forget the return! While you are probably tired from travelling, your child will want to and should be encouraged to tell you everything that has happened since you've been away and hear about your trip too. Take the necessary time to acknowledge the importance of being together in person and catching up on important and not so important developments during your absence.
While these practices might seem simplified, too often we forget to do the simple things that do matter so much in creating a warm environment in the midst of a fast paced world.
Anna Hu, Head nurse & nutritionist
and the Hui Xin team!