Touch down. It’s Saturday morning in Amsterdam, I come back from a long business trip in the USA. Waiting for my suitcase, I see my wife and son through the glass window. All exited. Me too, I cannot wait to give them a big hug. The sliding doors open in the Arrival hall and my three year old boy runs to me in my arms. His first question “daddy, daddy did you bring me a gift?”. My answer: “I am back and that is your gift!”. It wasn’t what he was hoping for. An emotional meltdown followed. Welcome back!
Children are meant to attach to their parents. But I had a full time job with regular international travelling. It never crossed my mind that separation could be an issue.
Our relation was obvious, like gravity, no explanation required.
My 5 tips to bridge separation to stay close when being apart.
#1 The Polaroid surprise
Leave a Polaroid picture trail. Make several photos with a short text. Every other day your partner or the nanny puts a picture in your daughter’s lunch box. It creates an ongoing storyline while you are travelling. The possibilities are endless. It can be a puzzle, a quote or just you and whatever (his teddy bear for example).
#2 No present#
Make your relationship matter. The expectation of a present will undermine your reunion. In stead of presents bring stories home.
#3 Two of the same
Get two of the same. Can be anything, casual training pants, a bracelet or a watch. Make it relevant to your relationship. “After a long day working, I am back in my hotel, take off my business suit and slide into OUR cool training pants. It’s the best part of my day!”. Or, “I have a lot of meetings to attend and want to arrive on time. Every time I look at my watch I think of you”.
#4 Read the book “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst
Anticipate on your business trip by reading this book more frequently. It is a brilliant little story about holding on when apart and really appeals to the imagination of children.
#5 You-and-me time
Schedule in one-on-one time soon after you return from the business trip. It can be as simple as building a marble track together or play with Duplo. Make it concrete and live up to it when you are back.
There are many more options to bridge separation. Key is NOT to emphasize on the separation. But instead focus on what stays the same and foster connection.