It’s a familiar scene for Dubai’s working parents, waving goodbye to little hands that are waving back, speaking the same reassurances; “I’ll be back soon” before setting off for DXB and beyond. Living in such an international hub means that work requirements can pull mums and dads away, leaving the parental onus on just one person. Here are some tips on how to make sure departures run smooth, whether you’re the one taking-off or the one staying home.
Before leaving – Preparing your kids for the departure of a parent is important, it can set the tone for the duration of the trip as well as future separations. The time to tell your child about your upcoming trip depends on his age and temperament. Young children and toddlers don’t understand the concept of time, they can’t differentiate between two days and five, so telling them that you will be leaving too far in advance may induce unnecessary anxiety, says psychologist and founder of The Centre for Well-Being, Stephanie Mihalas, Ph.D. Tweens and older kids are more independent and respond well to being kept informed, so can be told several days in advance, sharing details about where you are going and why you need to go can also be empowering.
Keep goodbyes a positive experience, sneaking off, or long emotional goodbyes can cause anxiety. Keep it simple and upbeat something like: “I love you. I can’t wait to see you when I come back, but I know you’re going to have a good time.” Then leave.
During the trip if you’re away – Check-in but not too much. Show your kids that they are important to you but taking whatever time you can spare to call or video call and say hello for a quick catch up. Try and keep it to one call a day as frequent calls may stir up frustrations. It doesn’t hurt to pick up a souvenir from the city you are visiting too!
During the trip if you’re staying home – Try and keep the routine going, school, activities, bedtime etc. Kids feel safe with routine especially when another element of their daily lives has changed. Another important factor is you! You may be managing with less support than usual and this can sap your energy more than you know. Take time to relax when the kiddos have gone to bed, book a home service spa treatment (a personal favourite) get stuck into a real page-turner, or if you dare sneak ahead on that series that you and your spouse have been following. Whatever floats your boat, take some time to do it and recharge. Self-care is crucial in this parenting game.
Returning – It can be tempting to walk into the house and make a beeline for the bath tub to soak off all of that stale airplane-ness, or throw on your sneakers and go and sweat out all of those client dinners and airline food, but little people can be sensitive to feeling ignored. Dr. Mihalas recommends making greeting your kids and partner a priority. Take 20 minutes to cuddle and catch up, share your experiences of the past few days that you’ve spent apart and then explain that you need to go and shower and unpack. Returning with love will make future trips feel less daunting for the kiddos. Written by Fleur Beach