Separation Anxiety

My husband and I are planning to take a week-long vacation to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. Our two-and-half-year-old daughter will spend the week with her grandparents. This will be our first time away from her overnight, and I am really nervous about leaving her. She knows her grandparents from weekend trips every four to six weeks when they visit. How do we explain our absence and prepare her for this separation?

--polinadc
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Robert Schwebel

Clinical psychologist Robert Schwebel, PhD, has been in private practice for almost 30 years, counseling children, couples and... Read more

Congratulations on your anniversary and good for you for celebrating. Remember, we empower our children when we give them a chance to feel comfortable with other caring adults who love them. You are not leaving your daughter with a stranger--they are her grandparents whom she knows well. And I assume your daughter feels warmly toward them and that they take good care of her.

You could tell your daughter with some enthusiasm that she will have a special opportunity to have her grandparents all to herself for a week while you and your husband go on a trip. You can tell her that you will be calling (assuming you will) and how often. Tell her some of the things she will be doing with her grandparents. Make her feel happy about being with her grandparents. If she is going to their home, you can help her pick which favorite toys she wants to take.

One key factor will be your level of comfort. If you think about the week as empowering your daughter and have all details covered (for example, leave the name and phone number of your daughter's pediatrician, a daily schedule to help the grandparents and a list of your daughter's favorite foods), then you can be positive about it, and it will help your daughter.

One other thought: Perhaps the grandparents could come before your trip and take over for a while with you in the background or out for dinner, so your daughter gets some more experience with them.

I believe it is important that parents take good care of their children and of their own romance. Too often, I see the romance put on the back burner, and I think that is a mistake. Enjoy the trip, and be sure to go out on weekly dates regularly with your husband before and after the trip.

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