Heading away for a week or so and leaving your children? It sounds wonderful!
But beware – leaving your children behind can sometimes come with a high cost, even with your best intentions.
Baby Sara (not her real name) was sad. Not yet one-year old, she could not be consoled. For several days, it was a tough time, for both her, and her carers. Finally, she gave up. And with all hope lost, she squirmed in her cot to face the wall, and zoned out. She was broken-hearted.
A few days later her brother came to visit. He was his usual cheeky self, and on seeing him, Sara emerged from her lethargy. It was like she woke up, and the world was right again. Seeing that familiar face was enough to give Sara a new lease on life. She managed the remainder of the four weeks away from her entire family – just.
This incident happened years ago . . .
But to Sara the memory still has a life of its own. She is now an adult, married, and with young adult children. Her distraught response to being left with friends for a month while her parents went overseas to work has now become the stuff of family legend.
“I thought they had died,” she said. “It would have been better if my brother and I had stayed together.”
Unfortunately, the trauma of that incident scarred Sara for a very long time.
“I couldn’t do sleepovers growing up,” she says with emotion. “Well, I did do them, but I always cried myself to sleep.”
Finally, at 16 years of age, Sara finally connected the dots. She realised the separation anxiety she always experienced was because of that brief period when she was a baby. Thankfully she was given the opportunity to talk it through with someone who prayed with her to release her from the pain of the memory, and the trauma.
Sara was also encouraged to forgive her parents for leaving her – a difficult thing to do, but incredibly freeing. After that things changed, and it meant she could stay away from home, without the trauma.
“Without healing our childhood wounds and forgiving our parents, we stay emotionally stuck at the age of our earliest wounds”
Sara is Philosophical
“I know they left me there with the best of intentions, thinking they were doing the best thing for me in the circumstances,” Sara explains. “It was a different era then, and my parents made the best decision with the information available to them.”
As parents, we all have to do that. Faced with hard decisions about our children, we all make our choices – for good or for bad.
Sara’s response is admirable. She worked her way through the issue and engaged with the problem. Choosing the difficult, but more gracious path, she came to a point of reconciliation and understanding.
No One has Perfect Parents
As you reflect on the job your parents did as you were growing up, you can probably see where they could have done better. Being left temporarily is one thing, but perhaps you were left somewhere permanently. Perhaps you too were traumatised as a result of your parents’ actions.
The challenge for us all is letting go, as Sara did. If you hold onto the hurt, the bitterness, and the revenge, it only hurts you. Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting people off the hook, and everything to do with giving you back your freedom.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting people off the hook, and everything to do with giving you back your freedom.
7 Thoughts About Leaving Your Children . . .
Sometimes Leaving your Children is Necessary
Everyone one has to leave their children in the care of others some time or other. And that’s okay. Having children does not mean you stop having a life – instead they add richness and vibrancy. So, if you can travel with your children, then do it. You can have some very exciting overseas adventures with little ones.
In Sara’s case, her parents were going to a country which was politically unpredictable, and culturally unknown. It was clear they couldn’t take the children with them.
It’s a good idea to pray about how to move forward when thinking about leaving your children. Obviously, as parents, you are the main care-givers for your children, and it’s important to take your job seriously, and consider the long-term outcomes for them.
Seek God about your plans, and if you do not have peace about leaving your children, then do not move forward with the idea.
Set Up the Stay-over Well
When leaving your children, try and house siblings together if possible, or if you have to split them up, try and make sure more than one of them stay together. It’s a great idea of siblings can all get together a few times while you are away.
Physical Preparation for Leaving
Make sure your children are familiar with the people who will be caring for them. Some visits to the house where they are to stay are a good idea. And maybe have a trial sleep-over, before the day comes when you are really leaving your children.
Verbal preparation – Babies
Talk to your baby about what is going to happen, and do it often. We were away for a week when one of my girls was only six-months old. Every so often during the weeks leading up to the event, I would sit down with her, look her in the eye and explain what was going to happen. Especially, I told her we would come back and take her home after a week.
Yes, true, she didn’t have the language to converse with me. But I knew I was speaking into her soul and spirit. We all managed the separation without difficulty.
Verbal Preparation – Older Children
Give more, or less, information depending on the age of the child. Little ones do not always have an accurate understanding of time, so telling them three months ahead that you will be going away may not be helpful. However, you can talk through ideas, such as suggesting with enthusiasm that one day they might go on a holiday to someone’s house. This sort of chat is a really important part of preparation for leaving your children.
Separation is the really hard part about leaving your children. While away, entrust your children into God’s care. But if you are stressing over them, you will not be able to successfully do whatever it is you are going away to do.
Sara told me her mother didn’t cope very well and had some physical stress issues during her time away. Sara wasn’t the only one suffering!
It goes both ways
Reflecting on your own upbringing you can see where your parents failed you easily enough. However, it takes more effort to see when, and where, you have failed your own children. If you have let them down at some point it’s important to forgive yourself. If you are able, talk things through with your child or children, and ask them to forgive you. Then make the decision to Take Back Your Inner Happy!
Do you have unhappy memories of being left behind by parents? Did you forgive them?