Dear Dr. Rene,
My five and six year old children are going to be staying with their grandparents for two months while we move our household and set up our new house in Germany. How do we keep this separation a positive experience and let them know they haven’t been abadoned?
Mother of Two
There are many answers here. First, be ready for them to have some separation issues or related upsets throughout the time. Two months is a stretch, and, at this little age, the response is unpredictable. Talk to the grandparents in advance about ways they might help and how to manage.
Anytime there is upset, start with giving empathy. Accept and validate their emotion. Label and talk about why they are feeling that way. Help them to understand and express their feelings. Teach them ways to calm and cope.
During the separation, find ways to connect. Plan to Skype regularly, send a daily postcard, email pictures of the move and call daily. Even if these things are a bit difficult, it is likely good to be in touch.
Have the grandparents keep as regular a schedule as they can. Keep mealtime and bedtime routines intact and sleep on schedule. If the children went to preschool or babysitters, have them go as possible.
Make a fun schedule for the four of them. Encourage the grandparents to take the children to museums, movies or the library for storytimes. Be helpful by researching this for them in advance.