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Explaining absences to toddlers

(9 Posts)
Abrico Thu 04-Apr-13 09:49:26

My DH started a job about 6 months ago which involves him working abroad for 1-2 weeks every 2-3 months. He is now away for the third time. DS (2,2) is finding this very confusing and upsetting.
We have tried explaining it to him, and this time have tried a visualisation method involving sweets: DH gave DS a pot of sweets when he left, with 1 sweet per day he would be gone. DS then gets to eat 1 sweet each morning, when they are all gone Daddy comes home.

Judging by last night's drama at bedtime with increasingly desperate requests for Daddy, and by this morning's clinginess, DS has not understood at all.

Does anyone have any tips on how to explain such temporary absences to toddlers? Or is DS still just too young to understand, and we just have to tough it out for a couple of years?

unclefluffy Thu 04-Apr-13 09:55:17

If yours is like mine it will get better soon. Mine was distressed about the absence of Daddy until she was about two and a half and then calmed down a lot. In fact, I went away for three days when she was about that age and she was absolutely fine, even though I am the primary carer. She went on 'punishing' him for his absences for a while longer, though. He rarely achieves 'most favoured parent' status anyway, but she was always particularly stroppy with him when he had been away.

unclefluffy Thu 04-Apr-13 09:56:56

She's now four and knows the days of the week, which seems to help.

The baby is only one and her second proper communication was "where Daddy?" so I think we're about to go through it all again!

ihearttc Thu 04-Apr-13 11:37:22

My DH works abroad as well...it works out about 1 week in every 5/6 and I have an 8 year old and a 2.4 year old.

He started working away when DS1 was about 3.5. To be honest Ive never really explained it at all to younger DS. Ive just told him that Daddy is at work...he works really long hours when is in the country so it's not massively unusual for him not to see him. He Skype's a lot which helps and he understands that he will get to see/speak to daddy after tea when he isn't here.

I think he is too young to understand what you have done with the sweets although I think its a fantastic idea. I would just try to keep it nice and simple and say "Daddy is away" at the moment but he will be back in a few days.

I don't know if Ive become a bit blase about it all though having done it for it so long...its just something that happens and we deal with it if that makes sense?!

fififrog Thu 04-Apr-13 11:53:15

My DH has not yet been away but I have twice. My DD is just 2. She's been OK so far but it was much much easier the second time as I phoned to speak to her every night. My mum and dad are both abroad just now for quite a few weeks and we've been skyping with video and it's great. Can you do that?

Abrico Thu 04-Apr-13 20:23:39

I thought he might be a bit young to understand... Thanks for sharing how you deal with it, and for reassuring me that it will probably get better soon.

Skyping is difficult due to the time zones (5 hour difference), DH would have to take time out during the day to skype from work, which is a bit awkward in a new job. We might have to do it every couple of days though.

domesticslattern Thu 04-Apr-13 20:39:02

What if Daddy left DS something of his, like a scarf or favourite jumper or something associated with him, and asked him to look after it for him till he came back?
It's a clear sign of daddy and a job for DS, and a visual promise he'll return.
I was recommended this idea by a child psychologist when DD1 was not settling at nursery but I don't see why it shouldn't work for longer periods too? 2 is very young to have a good concept of things happening in the future so this concentrates on a symbol of daddy in the present iyswim.
Hth. Must be difficult for you too.

CreatureRetorts Thu 04-Apr-13 20:50:34

They don't have the concept of timely that age. Don't take this the wrong way, but you may have made it worse with the big explanations so it becomes quite a big deal iyswim? She will take her lead from you - when she asks for daddy, just say he's away and he will be back on x. Say he loves her very much. Maybe have a special teddy or something that looks after dd from her daddy for her to have while he is away?

fififrog Thu 04-Apr-13 21:51:04

Does DH have, or can he get, an iPhone or similar - grandpa uses his phone when we skype him - might make it easier to do it at work, only a couple of minutes needed! Obviously if he's a surgeon or something this won't help smile

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