Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-Being During Times of Separation

Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-Being During Times of Separation

An important part of a parents role is making children feel loved, supported and safe. But, life. Sometimes work-travel, family obligations or military deployments require parents to be away temporarily, and even short separations from a parent can feel scary for kids. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs recommends military members preparing for a deployment talk to their children about why they need to be away and providing them as much information as they can about what they will be doing and how long they will be away as well as communicating a clear plan for keeping in touch. This guidance is also relevant to anyone who finds themselves geographically separated from the kids in their lives.

How else can we help ensure our children’s emotional well-being during times of separation?


Talk it Out

To prepare for an upcoming time apart, talking it out in an age-appropriate way helps children feel comforted. If possible, talk about where you will travel to. Pull out a map and mark where they are and where you are going. Talk about what you will see there and get them excited about photos you will take and souvenirs you will bring back.  

Having an open dialogue to address any fears or concerns helps support children’s developing emotional intelligence as they work through difficult feelings. You can introduce concepts such as journaling and breathing techniques to help them during tough moments.

For younger children, look for books that talk about families in similar circumstances such as the picture book When We Are Apart, which helps even the youngest child feel reassured that they are loved unconditionally.

A common fear for children when their routines are disrupted is that something important to them will be missed or forgotten. Making sure they know their routines will carry on and that you have plan in place for ensuring consistency while you are gone will go a long way in alleviating their fears. Older kids can get involved by coming up with solutions together and identifying what other adults in their life can temporarily meet a need they have in your absence. A little extra attention and empathy is a great start to preparing your child for time apart.


Provide Avenues for Connection

Finding ways not only to stay in touch, but to stay connected during time apart is essential. Depending on time zones and the nature of your travel, phone and video call opportunities may be limited. If that’s the case, make sure to prepare your child in advance and come up with an alternative way to stay connected.

If you won’t be able to communicate at all during the trip, you could write letters in advance that another caregiver can give your child at various points. Your child could create a scrapbook or memory box of important drawings, school papers and photos of things they have done while you’ve been away. You can make a plan to sit down and look through everything together upon your return. You could also personalize a Make Momentos recordable e-book to stay connected no matter the distance or time difference. Theres nothing more comforting than the sound of your voice.

If you’re able to use phone and video chat to stay in touch, coming up with a time that works well for both schedules helps to ensure these special moments of connection happen. Take into consideration whether a call at bedtime will help your child settle in for good nights sleep or wind them up too much. Would mornings work better for your family or is the morning routine too hectic in your home to fit in a call? Every family will have a different preference and it may take some trial and error but thinking through obstacles in advance gives you a strong head start!

Understanding the concept of time is challenging for young kids because it’s such an abstract concept. If you know how long you will be gone, help them put together a tangible way to count down the days until you return. It could be simply marking off days on a calendar, making a paper chain and removing a link each day or week, or filling a jar of candy with the number of pieces equaling the number of days you will be gone. If you will be in a different time zone, hang up an extra clock and set it to the time zone you are traveling to. Kids will get a kick out of thinking about you eating breakfast when they are getting ready for bed!


Make Plans for Future Togetherness

Having something to look forward to can help make time pass by more quickly. Before departing, parents and children can brainstorm ways to celebrate their reunion. If the return date is firm, marking a specific date on the calendar gives children something extra special to count down to and get excited about.

Your plans don’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive. It could simply be a commitment to do something you enjoy together like fishing, a beach day or a visit to a specific restaurant or ice cream shop you both love. You can also talk about future events and holidays that are coming up that you will be home for to help put the temporary separation in perspective and reassure them it’s not forever!


Whether times of separation are common occurrence or a rare experience in your family, it can always be challenging to make sure children’s needs are met both physically and emotionally from a distance. How does your family manage time apart? Let us know in the comments!

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