Preparing to leave for SPACE – some ideas to ease the pain

April 12th, 2012

by Billy Kaplan

If you are like many of us, you are already preparing, literally if not figuratively, for your trip to Parenting in SPACE 2012!!!! I can’t wait to see you! And I’ll bet you are getting pretty darn excited, too. And your kids are feeling… well, I’ll bet that excitement about you leaving for a weekend is probably not the emotion that comes to mind for them. Maybe one of these: fear, anger, dread, worry, anger, numb, fear, abandoned… Any of these ring a bell? Did I mention anger? So… what to do? You are all signed up and ready to come to Lisle, Illinois, and it’s like you can anticipate they are getting ready to do their best to fall apart so you can’t come. May I make a few suggestions that might help the transition?
  • Talk about the upcoming trip (with whatever pre-notice you need to minimize freak out time while providing sufficient processing time).
    • Let them talk about their feelings, if they can, by saying something like, “You know, I’m going away next Saturday and Sunday. I wonder what that will be like for you?”
    • And if they can’t find the words, try saying something like this: “You’re not sure how you feel about me going away for the weekend? Well, I can imagine that part of you might be glad to get rid of me for the weekend: Yeah, dad’s gone!!! And part of you might be sad: I’m going to miss mom. Part of you might be worried that I won’t come back, that I’ll abandon you. And part of you might not know what to feel. It’s all ok. Maybe you’ll feel none of these things, and maybe you’ll feel all of them."  It's natural to want to go straight to reassuring that you won't be abandoning them.  I encourage you first to acknowledge and accept that they might be feeling abandoned and THEN, when they feel felt by you, then reassure them that you will return.
    • Have them “try out” some of those feelings by repeating after you: “so how about you repeat what I say and see if or how any of these feel?
      • I’m mad that you’re going away
      • I’m worried you’ll never come back (like other people I've known)
      • I’m sad you’re going away
      • I’m going to miss you so much
      • It’s going to be hard having you be gone. Everything will be different
      • I don’t like (grandma and grandpa) watching me.
      • I hate when you go away
      • I hate YOU!!!
      • I’m going to miss you
      • I am going to be SO mad at you when you get back
  • Anticipate the return
    • Ask them how they’re going to show you how mad they are at you when you return. You can even make a game out of it, with each of you thinking of ways they can show you they’re mad.
    • I know this seems like a crazy idea, and that you might be thinking this may be giving them ideas. What I’ve found is that if you first talk about what they might feel while you’re gone (above), it helps them REALLY feel heard, then, by playing this game, it’s like burning out the options of what they really might do when you return.
  • Some other ideas
    • Wear a big t-shirt to sleep, or when you work out – something that will really get your smell all over it. Then, give it to your kid to sleep in while you’re gone so that s/he can feel like you are "hugging" him/her all night long.
    • Look at the schedule for Parenting in SPACE and plan times you can plan to connect with them on the phone or Skype (there is wireless access at the facility). Let them know your plan, and prepare for them NOT to come to the phone at those times – it’s ok.
    • Leave little notes for them hidden in fun places (underwear drawer, attached to the milk, in their cereal, etc.) letting them know you’re thinking about them, and/or describing special qualities of theirs.