How Long Is Too Long?


By: David E. Smith, CSW

Predicament:

I am wondering what a child psychologist would say about leaving my 6 month old for a 3 day weekend, with his grandparents. I am a stay at home mom and my son has only been babysat by his grandparents. He sees them about once a week and they have actually babysat him about 5 times. I have a workshop I really need to attend, but I am not sure he is old enough to handle being away from mom for that long of a shot yet. Do you think this could cause him abandonment issues or something?

Response:

I am not sure what a child psychologist would say about this, but as a psychotherapist / certified social worker specializing in work with children,  I can certainly add my 2 cents. There will be some reaction and upset feelings related to your being gone and he cannot be protected from that. The degree of your child's reaction, however, depends on a number of things. The age of the child, the attachment to you, how familiar he is with his babysitters, his experiences while you are away, his disposition, how long you will be gone, how prepared he is for your trip, how you respond to his reaction once you get back, etc. All are variables that can have an impact on how this event is experienced by your infant.

If your infant is rather familiar with his grandparents, is prepared for your trip (preparation = talking to him about your plans, about how long you will  be gone for and what he can expect when you are away, etc.), if he has a positive experience with his caregivers, if he is left with things that smell  like you and that visually reminds him of you, if the trip is short and if you call in regularly to say hello to him, this should help to lessen his reaction to your being away.

Keep in mind that if your child was older, he would probably have a better sense of who his grandparents are and a better capacity for processing his feelings related to separation and loss. Some parents are of the belief that "he is too young to remember that", however, from professional experience, I can tell you that some issues around separation and loss do stem from preverbal experiences.

In addition, if you are nursing, being away could also have an impact on your ability to continue doing so once you return. In some women, milk supply diminishes and can be difficult to regain. If this is the case, you may want to consider speaking with a lactation consultant or someone from the La Leche League prior to your trip to discuss this issue further.

With that said, as the parent you will have to decide whether he or you are ready for this trip.

Best wishes and Many Peaceful Blessings!!!

Response by David E. Smith, CSW- Resident therapist at AlternativeParenting.com

"Parenting Predicaments" is a forum on the Alternative Parenting web-site where parents can submit their concerns on their child's behavior and  development. Visit the site that is dedicated to living naturally at http://www.AlternativeParenting.com.

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