My wife and I have to be away from our 5-year-old son for the first time for three days because of work obligations. He's staying with a family from our church that will take him to school and pick him up; the family has a teenager in high school but no kids our son's age. He said he couldn't promise he wouldn't cry. What can I do to make this extended separation easier on him?
"When you do everything to comfort a child, he will rise to the occasion," predicts Christina Alonso, a social worker in private practice in Huntington. She recommends this:
Give him as much control as you can over packing. Ask if he'd like to bring his blanket and pillow, a favorite stuffed animal or a game to play with the teenager.
Make it an adventure. Give the host family cash to take your child to Chuck E. Cheese or Friendly's, for instance. If money is an issue, take a movie out of the library he can watch with the hosts. Involving the hosts in the activity makes the child look forward to being with them.
Keep routine consistent. If he eats dinner at 5 and goes to bed at 8, ask the hosts if they can adhere to that.
Reassure your son that you and his mom are coming back. Schedule a time to call him each day, so he can rely on the fact that he'll get to talk to you every morning or every night before bedtime.