Help Your Kid Get Through Time Apart with Good Old-Fashioned Letter Writing

Recently, my spouse and I were away from home, and from our kindergarten-aged daughter, for nearly two weeks—the longest we’d ever been separated. Even though she was excited about the idea of spending two weeks with her grandmother, I had a feeling that the reality of Mommy and Daddy not being there would sink in after a few days of us being gone. I wanted our absence to be bearable, so I had to have a plan. I wanted to leave her something that would close the distance of time zones and remind her, even if it was just for five minutes, that though Mommy and Daddy went to go have lots of fun without her, we still loved her very, very much. So, I turned to the time-proven method of communication: handwritten letters.

Well, the letters were a success. While our daughter was very excited to see us upon our return, she handled our absence like a champ. They worked so well that that I’m going to write more of them the next time we’re away for more than a few days.

If you’re going to be away from your kiddo for a bit of time, whether it’s travel for work, for a childless vacation, or because you’re heading to a convention, give it a try. Here are a few tips.

A man writes in a book

Why do you write like you’re running out of time? Image from Old Book Illustrations

1. Use Fun Stationery

Sure, you could use a piece of paper ripped from a notebook, but presentation matters! Try to find some fun notecards with pictures related to your trip (we ended up using hedgehogs, plus the phases of the moon to signify passing of time) or ones that your child will find interesting. If it’s fun for your kid to open up the envelope, then they’ll be excited for each new letter!

2. Write One Letter for Each Day

A new letter each day can take a little bit of time to create, but it will be worth it. A little bit of information each day, compared to one long note at the beginning, makes what you’re doing feel a little more real. Also, opening an envelope a day gives your little one a good visual indicator of how many days it will be until you’re home.

3. Use Language Your Kid Understands

Keep your geekling’s vocabulary and confidence in reading in mind when you write. If you’re introducing new concepts or words, be sure to define them in the letter, especially if you’re writing to a kiddo who isn’t Google adept.

4. Keep the Content Relatable

The part about the letters that excited my daughter the most wasn’t the various facts and trivia I included—it was when I wrote that we were headed to the same place that one of her favorite characters “lives.” Think about not just what you enjoyed doing but what your kid will be interested in.

5. Keep the Content Appropriate

Yes, this does seem like a no-brainer, but it can be harder than you think. A big highlight of our trip was seeing a place where a lot of famous people were executed and/or buried, but the political motivations of the Tudor monarchs isn’t something that you can easily explain to a kid, at least if you’re trying to do so in 50 words or less using words in your six-year-old’s reading vocabulary (and trying to avoid any awkward questions from Grandma). So, instead, I wrote about how old the castles were and focused on other parts of the day she’d find interesting.

What’s your favorite way to stay in touch with your child or other loved one when you travel?

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