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Family vacations are always fun, but sometimes the parents need to get away and reconnect without the kids around. Couples’ get-aways are a wonderful way to rekindle that romance that can be hard to find in the drudgery of every day. But what to do about the kiddos that are left at home? How do you make sure that the caretaker of your children has all they need to take your most precious assets safe and happy while you are away? Check out the steps we take to set up the household for success when we leave so everyone can have a relaxing trip without having to worry.
Choose a Trusted Caretaker – This is an obvious one but should be stated. Whenever I am leaving my children with someone, it is with someone I trust implicitly. For overnights it is usually my mom or one of my best friends. Even for an evening out, we go through a lot of due diligence when hiring a babysitter. But especially when going away for an extended period, I make sure that I am leaving the kids in the hands of someone that not only I trust, but that they enjoy spending time with and trust as well. That way they know that mama will return, and while she is gone, they will be safe with someone who loves them.
Prep the Child – No matter the age – 3 months or 13 years old – it is important to prep your child on what is going to happen, especially if this is the first time you are going away. Tell them how long you will be gone, who they are staying with, and what the expectations are. Even young children who don’t yet talk. They have memories and can understand what is happening. It is important to let them know so they are ready. When they can count and even read a bit, you can use a calendar to show them when you will be gone, and when you come back. My kids when they were young liked to use a calendar to cross off the days and count the ones left before Mommy and Daddy came back.
Prep Your House – When we have been gone during the week or school year, we generally have found it helpful to have someone come and stay in the house instead of taking them someplace to stay. When Abuela comes to town to care for my kids, I make sure everything is ready in our house. I go grocery shopping and make sure the fridge and pantry are full of easy to prep meals and the kids’ favorite snacks. For older kids, I make sure there are things that it is easy for them to prep themselves, to take some of the burden off Abuela. I clean the house, and make sure the kids’ laundry is done, so Abuela does not have to worry about those things. I stock up on paper and plastic wear, so Abuela has the option if she doesn’t want to do dishes. Make sure all beds have clean sheets, and the guest bedroom is all ready. All this makes it easier for Abuela to just concentrate on making sure the kids are happy and well cared for while we are gone.
Inform the School/Daycare – Make sure the school or daycare knows that a new adult will be taking over for a period. Many schools will require that the person who is picking up the children be on the authorized list of trusted adults. Advanced prep makes sure there is not a problem on the first day of pick up and drop off. In addition, make sure the individual teachers know as well. Sometimes kids will act up because they are missing mom and dad, and letting the teachers know will make sure they can help the child adjust.
Medical Release Form – One thing you should make sure to have ready for your caretaker is a Medical Release Form. It is a form that gives your caretaker the right to make medical decisions for your child when you are away. It has the children’s names, insurance information, pediatrician contact information, and should be signed by your and your co-parent. Hopefully this will not need to be used, but in case of emergency, you want to make sure that the caretaker can do all they can until you can get on the scene.
Leave a List of Important Information – Make sure you have a list of the important information that the caretaker may need. You want to make sure that you leave:
- A list of allergies: Include how to treat them in case they come in contact the allergen
- Medications: What medications may be needed, and how to administer them.
- The name of the pediatrician and pediatric dentist their phone numbers
- Foods the child likes and foods they hate.
- The children’s schedule: Especially important details such as nap times, what classes or appointments are scheduled, what day they need to bring their instrument for band, etc.
- Anything you think is important for the caretaker to know
Discuss How to Stay Connected – It helps my kids if we stay in contact while we are gone. When the kids were young, we would video call my mom every day, usually in the mornings when the kids were getting ready for the day. This gave us a few minutes each day to connect with kids and make them happy. We used WhatsApp to stay connected internationally. Now the kids are older with their own phones, and we use WhatsApp to text throughout the day. It lets us all feel connected even though we are far apart. Discuss with your caretaker how often and when you plan to get in touch, so they can be ready.
Bring Back Gifts – While bribery should not be your go to strategy, a little bribery can helps with behavior. My kids know that well behaved kiddos get presents when we return. And I love shopping when we are traveling so it is a win/win in my book.
Find a Special Way to Thank the Responsible Adult – I know some people hire overnight help when traveling out of town, but a large majority use friends or family to keep the kids while they are away. I always like to make sure to thank my mom when she is flown in to take care of the kids. Sometimes it is a mani/pedi, sometimes it is a massage, sometimes it is just flowers delivered to her house. But I want my mom to know that her help was appreciated. Make sure you thank that caretaker with a special gift or gesture. That helps ensure that they return to do it again in the future!
Leaving our kids is always hard, but its also necessary. My mom always said that God lends you your children. You get to raise them and then send them off into the world. But your partner, that is the person you choose for life. After your children are grown, it’s important you still have a relationship that is outside being a parent. Getting away, even for a night, is oh so important. Having that trusted adult who you can take over when you are away gives you the peace of mind to stay in the moment and rekindle your relationship with your partner. Happy parents make great parents, so think of this as an investment in both you and your child’s future happiness.