By the time you read this, I'll be on a plane on my way to Rwanda to set some things in order for an upcoming project. Of all the questions people ask me about international travel, here's the one I get the most: What do you do about your kids?
Here are a few things I've learned about how to take care of your kids when you know you need to be away for an extended period:
Only leave them with their favorite caregivers. Now is not the time to stretch them or ask them to do hang in there with someone who they aren't so sure about. Your tried and true favorite babysitters or family friends will be your best bet now.
Try to center all childcare arrangements within your home. For my kids anyway, I find that things go much more smoothly when I'm not sending them here and there or piece mealing their childcare arrangements. Plan to preserve home base and let caregivers come to you as often as possible.
Build in rituals for hellos and goodbyes. I make a conscious effort to spend quality one-on-one time with each of my kids at least once before I go and once when I return. Carter especially looks forward to these connecting times and it gives us a chance to talk deeply (or just have fun) before I go.
Stock up on faves and raves. I don't always have the budget to do this, but when I do, I try to make sure my kids' comfort foods are on hand and that they have easy access to good decent snacks to serve themselves. Kids whether they show you or not are concerned with their basic survival, so this is an important security measure that can go a long way.
Plan something fun to look forward to for the end of your stay. Everyone will start to get a little antsy and be ready for you to come home. You'll make those hard days easier by making plans for the kids to see favorite friends (or cousins) in the days right before you arrive.
Check in about what worked and what didn't while you were gone. By giving your kids permission to be honest, you'll get the inside scoop on what really happens and what you can do to make it work better next time. Give them all your empathy for the parts that didn't work; it's never easy when mom is away and it's only fair to acknowledge that.
What about you? Have you ever left your kids to go far away? What little things helped ease your journey?