LA is filled with parents who work in the entertainment industry, and alongside the cool perks (hello, Frozen screeners!), it also can mean long stretches on location. And our local, dedicated military families are no strangers to this separation struggle. So whether you’ve got a feature to shoot in Mumbai, a casting call in the Big Apple or deployment to the Middle East, we found tips and tricks that help kids cope when parents have to travel.
photo credit: Matthew Hurst via Flickr
Leave a Little “You” Behind
Even if you can’t “physically” be there for your kiddos while you’re traveling, your smiling face can be a great comfort to them while you’re away. For a totally unique twist on a family portrait that will brighten up your tot’s room, check out the adorable custom watercolor portraits by Sophie & Lili. Simply purchase the portrait package you want and email artist, Jennifer Vallez, a festive photo of your family that you’d like recreated. Easy as pie!
Shutterfly is another go-to resource for parents who travel. Personalization is the name of the game here. Print your mug on a mug so the kiddos can admire your face while sipping some special hot chocolate you left behind for them. Create a calendar with hilarious pics of the entire brood and have your tot cross off each day you’re closer to coming home. If your mini-me could use an extra snuggle while you’re gone, Shutterfly can even print pillows and blankets showcasing an image. (Like a picture of you, holding out your arms for a hug.)
One moment your children will likely miss most while you’re out of town is the special bedtime story you share together every night. Hallmark, mad genius that they are, created Recordable Storybooks so you can read to your rugrats whenever, wherever. Classics like Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love You and Disney faves likeToy Story: You Can Count on Me, allow parents to record themselves reading the story as your little one follow along in the accompanying hardcover book.
photo credit: Sophie & Lili on Facebook
Keep in Touch Tech
Whether you’re catching up on their school day from across the country or you’re reviewing your daughter’s ABC’s in a monster voice that only you can do, Skype and FaceTime have become absolute saviors to parents who travel. Set regular chat dates so you and your babes have something to look forward to.
While you’re jaunting around the globe, family game night may fall by the wayside, but that doesn’t mean you and your giggly gamer can’t still enjoy a some competitive fun. Try playing a turn based mobile app game with your little one from wherever you are. The Flying Alphabetinis is the first turn based multi-player word puzzle game for little ones (think Words with Friends for the small fry set). Just don’t be too surprised when they kick your butt. Another classic game to check out is Connect Four – Four in a Row where players battle it out by taking turns dropping their color checkers into slots on the top of the board. Or if you have a budding artist on your hands, Draw Something might be right up their alley: players take turns guessing what the other is drawing. Better brush up on your Picasso skills, mom and dad.
Generic postcards from the Eiffel Tower or Poughkeepsie Best Western are swell, but for a more personal “I’m thinking of you,” digital postcards are a wonderful alternative. Upload photos from your glamorous travels, personalize a message to your loved ones, add in their mailing address, then let Postcard on the Run do the printing and sending. In a few days, your family will receive a real postcard in the mail. (Yep, real snail mail! Like in colonial times.)
photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr
Books to Ease the “Missing You Blues”
The minute you utter the words “business trip,” your kiddos mysteriously come down with a case of the “missing you blues” as evidenced by their tiny death grip on your leg. A few children’s books in particular can help them better cope with any separation anxiety they may be feeling. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst weaves a charming tale about a very special invisible string that binds people from heart to heart, so no matter how far away you might be, you’re always connected. When I Miss You by Cornelia Maude Spelman features a young guinea pig who gets distressed when mom and dad go away on a trip. She not only learns ways to comfort herself, but is reassured that her parents will always return. When Daddy Travels by Harriet Ziefert is a flap book that shares the story of lovable Lily and George who miss their Dad terribly when he travels for work. Tikes can lift the flaps to discover all the ways their Dad keeps in touch while he’s gone.
Sometimes, all a tot needs to feel close to you is a little 411 on the place you’ll be visiting. Miroslav Slasek created a beloved series of kids books over the years highlighting various locales around the world. From This is London to This is Hong Kong to This is New York and many more, Slasek shares his impressions of these exciting places through vibrant illustrations and playful text that will leave your tike begging to read it again and again.
photo credit: Patrice Karst on Facebook
Special Surprises Never Fail
If you’ve got a stack of post-it notes, you have a pile of surprises at the ready. Try writing a simple note to your tot for every day you’ll be gone and leave them in easy to find locations for kids to discover during your absence. Maybe a note in their backpack, lunchbox, sock drawer, under their pillow or in the tub (assuming anyone can convince them to take a bath). Just a little something special to let your babes know they’re on your mind.
Bring back trinkets and treasures from your travels. Kids always dig t-shirts, hats, snow globes and delicious candies. Even the soaps, lotions and potions from your hotel room can make for a great haul.
Before you head off on your journey, leave an empty scrapbook behind for your little one to fill with photos, tickets, stickers, art projects, homework from school – whatever they’re up to you’re away. Explain that you’ll make a scrapbook of your adventures as well to swap with them when you return.
photo credit: Dimitris Siskopoulos via Flickr
Ask your kiddos if you can take their favorite stuffed animal with you on your trip so you don’t get lonely, then email daily photos of their furry pal whooping it up during your travels: having breakfast, attending meetings, sitting in the director’s chair, hitting the beach, watching cartoons from your hotel room, whatever you can come up with. Be creative—it’s a guaranteed hit with your kids! If they’re too small to sleep without their special “lovey” you can get a doppelganger “stuffed sibling” and bring that look alike on your travels, and they can keep their special friend at home to snuggle while they’re missing you.
What some unique ways you keep in touch with your tots when you have to travel for work? Let us know in the comments section below!
– Jennifer O’Brien