Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
Category: Family and Home > Parenting
Asked by: demf4-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 21 Mar 2003 05:01 PST
Expires: 20 Apr 2003 06:01 PDT
Question ID: 179109
My wife and I are traveling to Europe for a well-deserved vacation;
we'll be away for 10 days. Our 3-yr old daughter will stay at home
with both sets of grandparents. She will be fine (she loves all four
of them), but she's never been away from either parent for more than 4
days, never more than one at a time. How should we prepare her for the
temporary separation? (we've been thinking of going to cybercafes and
do a daily, regularly scheduled video chat... that's one alternative)

Clarification of Question by demf4-ga on 21 Mar 2003 05:38 PST
BTW, we're going to Spain. Spain has one heck of an internet culture:
cybercafés everywhere. As far as video cellphones, that's a maybe. But
I'm really more interested in the parenting aspect, namely the
separation anxiety. The contacting part, we'll handle.
Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
Answered By: journalist-ga on 21 Mar 2003 06:14 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Greetings Demf4:

The cyber cafe and the cell phone display are two great ways of
keeping in touch with your daughter while you are away yet, as Tehuti
pointed out in the comments, you may not find constant access to a
computer cafe while you are abroad and cell phone cost might be
extremely high.

My first suggestion would be for you and your spouse to make a series
of cassette tapes (or CDs, if you have a burner) where you are talking
to your daughter and "highlighting your vacation" and telling her how
much you miss her.  Just brief five minute spots.  A recording could
be played for her each day while you are gone and you would make them
general.  Then, you can always supplement the recordings with cyber
connections or phone calls but she will be guaranteed to hear your
voices each day you are away.

The second suggestion I have is for you is a type of homemade
advent-type calendar with a space for each day you are away.  Inside
each space would be a type of small token or candy.  To acheive the
"calendar" you could purchase small a nine to twelve drawer jewelry
drawer OR you could take empty matchboxes and glue them together to
make as many drawers as you wanted.  For the drawer handles, use prong
paper fasteners like the ones shown about 2/3 down the page at - they make great drawer handles. 
The affair also makes a great Barbie accessories chest for later.  ;)

Contact paper or gift wrap can be used to cover the finished box
arrangement (maybe a Barney or Elmo paper, whatever she likes) and
then you would put a little token in each drawer.  Each day you are
away, she may open one drawer, whichever one she chooses, and then the
drawer stays out of the arrangement after that.  This will give her a
visual of "days left" while you are away and make it a fun a game for
her and her grandparents.  You can make the tokens trip-related or not
- that would be your choice.  You can even put slips of paper in the
drawers - one might say "Is there a present in the hall closet for
you??  Better go look!!"

Another possibility (and you could do this in conjunction with the
recordings or "calendar" drawers) would be to write letters to her
before you go and leave them for the grandparents to open one each
day.  Decorate them with used stamps and lots of color and maybe have
something in each envelope, a little token of some kind.  The
suggestion "Oooh, I wonder what the mail will bring you tomorrow??"
would be another fun activity for her.  A grandparent can plant them
in the mailbox and then she and a grandparent can walk to the mailbox
each day and she will have a letter from you every day.

I'll admit the search phrase for this situation seems not a simple one
yet I did locate text for business travellers at that may
help your situation:

"Announcing your trip to your family as far in advance as you can,
helps them absorb the fact of your absence. Especially with small
children, mention your trip repeatedly. What these children most need
to know is when you are coming back in concrete terms that fit in with
their sense of time. For example, it may not mean anything if you tell
your four-year-old, “I will be back by Saturday morning,” if he
doesn’t know his days of the week. Better connect your return to one
of the week’s regular events: “I will be back to take you to the
chocolate store.”

"Children under three, in particular, may not understand that you are
coming back at all. Start a project with them to be finished when you
return. Remind him of it when you talk on the telephone."

The article had other tips, too, about the child helping you pack and

Another article that may be helpful is "Preparing Your Children" at
that deals with taking a trip away from your children.  This articles
suggests "If you cannot call during your child's waking hours, leave a
daily message on the answering machine."  It also suggests that
"issues of separation are most prevalent between 6 months and 2 years"
so the fact your daughter is three years-old woould seem to be a boon
for you.

I hope my suggestions will be of assistance and if you need
clarification of any of the links or information I have provided,
please request it and I will be happy to respond.


paper fasteners
trip away from child how to keep in touch
parents trip without child
long trip without child
vacation without children
vacation without children prepare
vacation without children advice
demf4-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
I was really pleased with your answer, particularly how quickly it
came out! Thanks for your help and suggestions!

Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
From: tehuti-ga on 21 Mar 2003 05:05 PST
"we've been thinking of going to cybercafes and do a daily, regularly
scheduled video chat"

Depending where you are, you might not even find an Internet cafe, let
alone one with video!
Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
From: easterangel-ga on 21 Mar 2003 05:14 PST
How about using those new cellphones with built in digital cameras.
Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 21 Mar 2003 06:56 PST
Hi demf4 --

I'd like to add a couple of comments to the already great answer by
Journalist, and the previous comments.

First, 3-year olds don't have a very good sense of time and days, so
counting off days on a calendar is somewhat meaningless to them.
Journalist's idea of an "advent" calendar of drawers is a fabulous one
because it's much more concrete than paper squares with X's in them.

The other thing you could do is fill a basket with wrapped presents,
one for each day you are gone. Her grandparents could make it a daily
ritual to have her choose one goody each morning, and she would know
that when the last gift is gone, that you are coming home THAT DAY.

My other word of advice comes from years spent dealing with
preschoolers and their parents.  While you are preparing her for your
departure, and when you call her or send her email, DO NOT use "worry"

Phrases like ….

"Don't worry; mommy and daddy are coming back"
"Don't be scared. Grandma will take good care of you."
"Don't be sad. We'll be home soon."
"Don't be afraid. Nothing bad will happen to us."
"I know 10 days is long, but we'll be back." 

….all inject worry into the child where none may have been before.
I've seen many many cases where a parent prepares to leave a happily
playing child at preschool, and then adds parting words like, "Don't
worry. You'll be fine." And with that, the child bursts into tears.
Worrying about "not being fine" had never occurred to her before.

Always speak to your daughter matter-of- factly and happily, as if you
are leaving her at a birthday party or for an overnight with
grandparents. Remember, the number of days is meaningful only to you,
not to her. Don't put numbers on it, just talk about "While we are in
Spain.." and "When we get back…" and "When grandma is here .."

Also, don't make promises for contacting her on certain days or times.
Unexpected adventure opportunities are going to come up for you, and
you don't want to miss them or feel guilty because she's waiting for
your phone call. (Another good reason to have pre-made letters in the

And finally, when you do call her, talk about things in HER life and
HER immediate future.

"You baked cookies with grandma? Great! I can't wait to try one!"
"Have fun with Grandpa at the zoo tomorrow. You can tell me all about
it when we get back."
"You saw a zebra? Draw me a picture of it ok?"

Remember, if you keep the tone casual and fun, so will she. If you
impart of sense of heavy sadness or worry, she'll pick that up in a
heartbeat. The tone is yours to set.

Enjoy your trip to Spain .. I'm sure with 4 grandparents on the job,
10-days of being the princess will fly by for your little girl!

Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
From: journalist-ga on 21 Mar 2003 07:42 PST
I thoroughly agree with the assessment concerning "worry words" that
my colleague Knowledge_Seeker suggested (and thanks for the comments,
KS, the concrete example is what is needed) - definitely remain upbeat
and positive about your trip because children pick up every nuance of
a parent's feeling/behavior, no matter how small.
Subject: Re: Parents away from 3-yr old for a week - how should we handle it?
From: journalist-ga on 25 Apr 2003 11:03 PDT
Thank you for your rating and comments!  I hope the trip goes well and
you have a safe journey.  :)

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy