India is my next trip, and I will be gone for a good chunk of time. Almost twice as long as I've ever left my kids before. It is going to be tough on all of us.
We purchased the books "When Mommy Travels" and "When Daddy Travels" by Harriet Ziefert. They are great stories about what happens when either of us are away from home, traveling on business. The "When Mommy Travels" book will be read daily when I'm gone on my next trip.
These are some of the things I do for my kids while I'm away (some ideas come from the When Mommy/Daddy Travels books):
- Tracking my time away on a calendar. Using a basic calendar template and crossing off the days or putting stickers on the calendar to indicate the day is over is helpful in setting expectations for how much longer I will be gone.
- At least 1 phone call a day, Be totally present during the phone call, get away from distractions and noise. At times, they may not be interested in talking on the phone, but they will remember you called.
- Send daily emails, explaining what is happening while I'm away. When I was in India last time, I talked about the cows I'd see in the road on my way to work, the people I was meeting, my hotel room and dining experiences.
- Letting Abby make a sign for us that greets us at the door when we get home, along with either a cake or cookies. Abby has such a fun time making the sign with stickers, paints, markers, whatever she feels like using. She has learned that she enjoys baking, especially when it comes to making something for her mommy or daddy.
- If it's a trip over a few days, I buy them a 'surprise'. Abby is always very excited to talk to me about a 'surprise' and asks "what is it, what is it?".
- For the longer trips, I leave behind a little gift to give them each day. A little toy from the dollar store, a new coloring book, something small that I know they would enjoy. More importantly it shows them that I am thinking of them.
- I let them pick one thing of mine they can keep in their room while I am gone. When Steve was on his last trip, Abby kept his baseball hat in her room and that made her feel special.
- Have someone keep them busy during idle time, so they don't dwell on you being gone.