There was a time in my career that I had to travel a lot, leaving my son with his dad or grandmother for a few days at a time. Sometimes I felt guilty about it, if I was going to miss a preschool party or some other event, but most of the time, we made the most of it by staying in touch. Once FaceTime came along, everything changed, and suddenly we were seeing each other while also talking in real time. He got a kick out of seeing my face pop up on the screen, and I loved watching him show off his dance moves or the A he earned in school, rather than just listening to him tell me about it.
Keep the connections you have with your kids alive while traveling for work with these easy ideas:
1. Play online games. One of the ways my boyfriend connects with our sons when he travels for work is via online video games that multiple people can play at the same time. They call each other and put the phone on speaker, then sit in front of their computers and play video games. While it’s not face-to-face, it’s certainly better than a simple phone call.
2. Take a toy with you. To really connect your littles, sometimes you have to appeal to their whimsical sensibilities. You’ve heard of classrooms that share a stuffed toy that goes home with a different student each weekend, right? The idea is that the child who has it takes pictures and adds them to a notebook documenting the toy’s adventures. What if you did the same thing with your kids? Have them pick a favorite toy that easily fits into your purse. Take pictures with it in various places on your travels, and send them the images via text or email, so they can build an online scrapbook or simply follow along. Kids get a kick out of seeing where the toy ends up, and it keeps you connected in a playful way.
3. Record yourself reading bedtime stories. This is especially good for those parents who travel for business to different time zones. Whether you simply go the audio route or for full-fledged video, kids love hearing their parent’s voice reading them. There are plenty of storytelling apps to help guide you along, so you can really personalize this experience.
4. If you’re missing a special event, arrange for your child to receive flowers or balloons. It will make them feel like a million bucks, even if you can’t be there.
5. Start a family blog. Even if you just have a few minutes each day, a blog is easy to get started and simple enough for anyone to contribute to, even little kids. You can share pictures, videos and general musings about your day, and scroll through to read older entries when you’re really missing each other.
6. Take advantage of video chats. From FaceTime to Skype, there are plenty of easy ways to connect with family and friends using video and audio simultaneously in real time. For kids that have their own smartphones, it’s a blast to see your mug pop up on their screen.
7. Create an online photo series. Myriad websites, such as Smilebox and Kodak, are designed to help you make creative photo and video albums that you can share with anyone via email or social media.
8. Go old school and send snail mail. So few of us actually hand-write letters anymore that it’s an absolute treat to receive one. There’s something so personal about the paper and ink, and kids love to discover they’ve received snail mail addressed to them for once. If you travel often, choose a postcard from each city you visit, and write your little a personal message. Like Pokemon cards and stickers, kids love to collect things, so consider picking up a souvenir box or container from one of your trips, so they can stash the postcards for safekeeping.