Fragile Emotions Between Homes - Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I’m temporarily staying at a hotel with my daughters, ages 3 and 5, while my wife wraps up work responsibilities three time zones away.

She’ll be joining us in a few weeks to start a training program. I’m supposed to be house hunting. Since I mostly work from home and my wife could work in a variety of medical settings once her training is complete, that leaves a pretty wide territory for me to look around in. Fortunately we have relatives here to help out with the girls, but all in all it’s a somewhat stressful situation. I’ve noticed that the littlest frustration for either child can quickly bring on tears. Any suggestions?

Advance Team Dad

Dear Dad,

Let’s see how many changes might be raising your daughters’ stress levels.

  1. Not having Mom at bedtime or other routine times of the day
  2. Not sleeping in their own beds and rooms
  3. Not having meals from their familiar kitchen
  4. Not having all their toys and books to choose from to play with and to read
  5. Not seeing any regular playmates other than each other
  6. Not having familiar views out the window or in their daily travels
  7. Not traveling to places they would usually go to – grocery store, playground, school, etc.
  8. Not following a regular schedule of school or play groups or story times as before
  9. Not having the sun rise and set when their brains expect it to rise and set
  10. Seeing Dad a little stressed out over some or all of the above, plus having the responsibility of choosing the family’s next community and home 

To say your girls have good reason to be emotionally fragile would be an understatement.

Young children thrive on routines. As well as you can, establish some predictability to their days with a rhythm of sleep times and meal times. Being that you are now three hours off from what they are used to, it may take a few days of moving their internal clocks incrementally forward to catch up to East Coast time. Sleep definitely affects emotional control, so extra tears are to be expected during this transition. If you can, let them video chat every day with Mom, adjusting to the fact that her time zone hasn’t changed!

You are probably very aware that hunger is a powerful force in a growing child, so keep quick food close by for breakfast, ideally in the room, in case one child is slower at getting up and dressed than the other. Your lunches and dinners will be less stressful once you get to know your way around. If you have a kitchenette, you can make cozy home-made meals once you locate a grocery store. They’re everywhere, and probably have many of the items and brand names your family is used to. One nice thing about living in a nation of restaurant chains is that you (or your girls) are likely to spot a familiar logo promising a menu with things you know you and they like to eat. Another option is to find one special place, close to the hotel, that has items to please all your palates and to eat there often. Even at the same table each time. It will be comforting to see the same staff each time as well. Try to maintain standards of good nutrition since that can affect emotionality, too.

Take advantage of your local family members’ advice and connections, not only to break up your house-hunting quest with fun things for the girls to do, but to steer you toward the best communities to meet your family’s needs. If they don’t have school-age children, ask to be introduced to their neighbors or colleagues who do so you can gain from their experiences. In case no one has told you yet, your five-year-old needs to be enrolled, or exempted from enrollment, in a public school. Not to add extra stress, but it would be easier for her to start at a new school on the first day when everyone else is also new. You may need to establish residency first however. Enrollment information for Anne Arundel County Public Schools can be found here . As for out-of-school activities, by now you have discovered that Chesapeake Family has a full calendar of events for children to enjoy (as well as ads for private schools and after school activities). Maybe you and your children will make some new friends at a kids’ concert or a library story time.

As you settle into a temporary routine of food, sleep, house hunting and fun, help your girls see the big picture of your daily forays. Little by little, you are getting closer to being home.

Dr. Debbie

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.