Heading away for a holiday or trip, and leaving your children with friends or family? Sounds exciting! But it’s good to be aware there may be long-term outcomes, even with your very best intentions. This blog explains some of the strategies you can use to ensure your children manage the separation with as few adverse effects as possible. Yes, adverse affects! Even as infants, children can be affected if you are absent for a significant length of time.
Have a listen to me talk about this story on ultra106five using the audio player, above.
And there is a free downloadable for you below, so keep reading!
Professional Life Coach Nanice Ellis made the following interesting observation, which might be cause for concern as you leave your children with carers for a holiday or trip:
“Without healing our childhood wounds and forgiving our parents, we stay emotionally stuck at the age of our earliest wounds.”
Here’s what Happened to Baby Sara*
Not yet one-year old, Sara’s parents had left her behind with some good friends while they went on a month-long missions trip. Her older brother was cared for by another family.
Unfortunately, Sara was so sad she would not be consoled. For several days, it was a tough, for both her, and her carers. Finally, the little baby gave up, and as if all hope was lost, she squirmed in her cot to face the wall, and zoned out. Her carers were very concerned. Was she broken-hearted?
But thankfully, things changed. 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 came right again. Seeing that familiar face was enough to give Sara a new lease on life.
After that visit, she managed the remainder of the four weeks away from her entire family. But to Sara, what became a funny family story, still has a life of its own.
That Incident Happened Years Ago
Sara now has her own young adult children. But for years, the re-telling of the story caused her grief. As she explains, “I thought my family had died. It would have been better if my brother and I had stayed together.”
It’s clearly still an emotional topic for her. “I couldn’t do sleepovers growing up,” she explains tearily. “Well, I did do them. But I always cried myself to sleep, or rang for someone to come and get me.” How sad is that!
“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 connected the dots. That funny family story wasn’t so funny after all. She realised the separation anxiety she experienced was because of that traumatic event. 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 distress.
Sara was also encouraged to forgive her parents for leaving her – which she found to be a very difficult thing to do. But once she managed it, she was elated. It was an incredibly freeing feeling. It was only then that things changed, and she could stay away from home, without tears.
Sara is Philosophical About Her Trauma
While planning their trip away, Sara’s parents did prepare well, and left their children with caring friends. Sara explains, “I know they left me there with good intentions, thinking they were doing the best thing for me in the circumstances.” Clearly, she has forgiven them, and understands the place they were in. “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.
Considering what happened, Sara’s response is amazing. 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.
Perfect Parents? Not Me!
As you reflect on the job your parents did as you were growing up, you can probably remember times they could have done better. Being left temporarily is one thing, but perhaps you were left somewhere permanently. Perhaps you too were traumatized as a result of your parents’ actions.
Like Sara, the challenge for us all is letting go. If you hold onto the hurt and bitterness, and seek 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.
Have a listen to Michelle Fletcher, the Treasuring Mothers social worker, talk about the importance of forgiveness HERE >>>
Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting people off the hook, and everything to do with giving you back your freedom.
6 Strategies to Safely Leave Your Children
No. 1 Say Goodbye to the Guilt Trip
I realized early in in my motherhood journey that having children does not mean you stop having a life. Instead, children add richness and vibrancy to all situations, including holidays. So, if you can travel with your children, then do it. You can have some very exciting overseas adventures with little ones.
However, sometimes leaving your children is necessary. And it’s true to say that everyone one has to leave their children in the care of others some time or other. And that’s okay. You can swap a guilt trip for a good trip.
In Sara’s case, her parents were going to a country for a month which was politically unpredictable, and culturally unknown. It was clear they couldn’t take the children with them.
No. 2 Prayer is an Unexpected Solution
Have you ever thought about praying as you prepare for a holiday or trip? It’s a good thing to do, especially if you are leaving your children. Obviously, as parents, you’re the main care-givers, and it’s important to take your job seriously. So one issue to be aware of is the long-term outcomes for them, which of course is humanly impossible to know. But God is not human. He does know.
Ask God about your plans, and if you do not have peace about leaving your children, then do not move forward with the idea. Your mother’s intuition is something that also can be trusted here.
No. 3 Set Up the Stay-over Really Well
When leaving your children, try to house siblings together if possible, or if you have to split them up, try and make sure more than one of them stay together. If you do have to split up, it’s a great idea if siblings can get together a few times while you are away, as happened in Sara’s family.
Also, are your children familiar with the people and place where they will stay? Some visits to the house where they will be living are a good idea. And maybe even have a trial sleep-over, before the day comes when you do really leave your children.
No. 4 Talk to Your Baby
Talk to baby about what’s going to happen, and do it often. We were away for a week when one of my girls was only six-months old, and she and her big sister stayed with grandparents. 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.
No. 5 Obviously: Talk to Your Older Kids
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.
No. 6 Trust God with Being Apart
Separation is the really hard part about leaving your children. While away on your holiday or missions/business trip, 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. So both mother and daughter were suffering!
It goes both ways
Choose forgiveness: As you reflect on your own upbringing, you will remember where your parents failed you easily enough. However, it takes more effort to see when, and where, you fail your own children. If you suddenly realize you have let them down at some point, it’s important to forgive yourself. As well, remember to talk things through with your child or children, and ask them to forgive you. Then make the decision to Take Back Your Inner Happy!
Keep these 6 strategies handy with your free downloadable, along with a Bonus strategy!
6 Strategies When leaving Your Children >>>
Do you have unhappy memories of being left behind by parents? Did you forgive them? Let’s talk using the “Reply” box below.
*Sara is not the baby’s real name