10 Tips for Traveling Parents

Business Trips are a requirement for many jobs, but they are especially difficult for parents who deal with the guilt of leaving their children behind and worry about how these parental absences might affect the children’s development. Charlie Hudson, author of The Parent’s Guide to Business Travel, offers parents tips to ease these stressful trips for the entire family.

Approximately one-fifth of all working adults take an overnight business trip at least once a year. An ever-increasing number of those travelers are parents who have to leave their children behind while they take care of business. Charlie Hudson, a mother and military veteran, experienced those pangs of guilt and fear traveling without her child, and has written The Parent’s Guide to Business Travel to help other parents make the process smoother and less anxiety-producing for all involved.

“Millions of parents face family separations and work-related travel on a regular basis,” says Charlie Hudson. “One of the most vital points for successful dealing with the time away is solid, two-way communication that begins at the earliest ages.”

To help make parent/child separations easier, Charlie offers these 10 tips from The Parents Guide to Business Travel:

  • Acknowledge that separation anxiety will occur for your family and, maybe, for yourself. Be willing to discuss it, but don’t dwell on it.
  • Make an effort to explain your departures and homecomings in terms your children can comprehend, and don’t be caught by surprise if you are temporarily treated to hostile behavior when you “disappear” and “reappear.” Infants and toddlers may not have vocabulary skills, yet they are keenly aware when their routines are interrupted.
  • Take the time to listen to older children if they express concern about why you are gone and involve them in some way in your travel if they are interested. Take them with you occasionally if it is practical. Recognize that it won’t be more often than it will be.
  • Do what you can to let them know you are available, even when you’re not at home. Telephone, email, buy a web cam, or just be willing to take extra time when you do return to discuss the things that are on their minds.
  • Minimize missing those events that they consider significant, and if you must be away, take steps to be as much a part of the event as you can.
  • Bringing gifts home is usually a good idea, but it’s not a substitute for your time.
  • Take measures to ensure that medical emergencies can be handled in your absence, and don’t panic if one occurs.
  • Understand that you can’t be gone and in control at home at the same time: it doesn’t work and its’ not fair. Work through control matters at the adult level, but pay attention to what the children are saying and recognize that this will probably be more of an issue than any other factor as the children move through adolescence and the teen years.
  • Periodically assess the impact of travel on your family and on you. If you reach the stage where you begin to resent or dread trips or if your children exhibit persistent physical/emotional difficulty, then it may be time for a change.
  • Be aware of, and honest about, what you want from your job. If your absences result in difficulty at home, don’t automatically assume travel is the root cause.

An essential information-packed book for any parent who travels for work, The Parents Guide to Business Travel explores the dynamics of today’s business parents and offers down-to-earth suggestions from that first time a parent leaves an infant all the way through the sudden realization of becoming an empty-nester. Arranged by the age of children, topics range from how to explain an absence to a toddler to the unsettling decision of when, and if, it’s okay to leave a teenager alone for one or more nights. An insightful collection of anecdotes and practical ideas, the book also includes checklists and charts for parents and children to complete.

As a military veteran, wife, and mother, Charlie Hudson knows the subject matter of family separation well. Her extensive 22-year career in the Army Ordnance Corps included deployments to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and to Haiti in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. Even in peacetime, several of her assignments required lengthy absences for either herself or her husband. She retired from the armed service in 1995 as a lieutenant colonel and now balances writing with her work as a senior logistics analyst, which includes working with her husband, Colonel Hugh Hudson, in support of Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in the war against terrorism. Hudson has a BA in political science, and MS in organizational development, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. She is a charter member of both the National Women’s Museum of Art and the Women in the Military Service of America Foundation. Hudson is also a member of the Washington Independent Writers and the VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association. She is the author of several articles and the books Orchids in the Snow (Perrico, 1998) and Shades of Murder (Briarwood, 2002).

Article courtesy of Capital Books, Dulles, Virginia.

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