How to make a 'connection bridge' between you and your kids when you're apart.

When it is time to be away from our children — whether that’s just for the day at day care or school or for longer periods of time for travel or a co-parent’s turn to have the children — we can still strengthen our connection with them.

I became focused on bridging the time I was away from my children because leaving them was ripping at my heartstrings!


GIF via "Despicable Me."

When it was time for me to go conduct a parenting presentation, even if it was just for an evening, one of my young ones used to have a complete meltdown. He’d start hanging on me while I was getting ready and even chase me down the street as I drove away. This was so stressful for him, the babysitter, and me too! I needed to find a way to teach him that I still loved him when I was gone and it was OK to be away from each other.

Thankfully, I discovered some techniques, which we worked on as a family and I passed along to my clients, that address the main reasons children hit the panic button or feel sad when their parents aren’t around.

Imagine creating a “connection bridge” to span the time when you are away from your child.

The three keys to successfully use a connection bridge are: preparing your child in advance that you will be apart, letting your child know the specific time when you will be together again, and using some sort of small object to “hold the connection.”

1. Prepare them in advance by filling their "tanks."

Fill your child's "tank" with love and attention before you leave. Photo via iStock.

A good bridge involves already having filled their “tanks,” which are imaginary containers that hold our children’s capacity for our connection. Each child has a unique tank that gets filled by their parent(s) through love, attention, and focused time together.

When our child’s connection tank is full, they are much more tolerant of separation. With a full tank, you can then add a time promise and an object for your child to remind themselves of your connection when you are apart.

And here's a tip: The first thing our family does every morning is gather on the sofa for snuggle time. When the kids start peeling away to play or eat, I know their tank is full. “Hitting the ground running” can drain everyone’s tanks very quickly and is the first thing I talk to clients about when they say mornings are their least favorite time of the day.

2. Young children can tolerate being away from their caregivers when they know exactly when they will see them again.

For little ones — as most young ones can’t tell time — use a marker they will understand like, “I look forward to seeing you right after circle time,” or “Daddy will be picking you up right after your afternoon snack.”

You can also use a calendar to mark out “sleeps” if you need to be out of town or they will be at a co-parent’s for a period of time. Note the day you will see them again on a calendar. If there is a family calendar where all the activities are posted, write in which day you’ll return.

"Daddy will be picking you up right after your afternoon snack."

Your child might feel upset and powerless that you need to be apart, so try to give some of that power back with choices (between two things). Perhaps ask, “I’ll see you again in three sleeps. Do you want to color that day in the calendar with a marker or put a sticker on it?”

Use technology to your connection bridging advantage when you are away overnight: programs like FaceTime and Skype are the next best thing to being with your children in person. In order to connect with little ones through the internet, rather than asking questions, which you are likely to get one-word answers to, walk around the room you are staying in with your computer to show your kids around. Children can find the view out the window and what the bathroom looks like very interesting!

For day-to-day separation like school drop off, try a banana note! Use a fine screwdriver to imprint a note into a banana skin. The imprint will be invisible at first and darken throughout the day.

Photo by Andrea Nair, used with permission

3. In addition to knowing when you will return, find a small object that a child could keep in a lunch box or pocket to hold when they are missing you.

My son made rainbow loom bracelets for me to wear while I'm away. Photo by Andrea Nair, used with permission

I like using small rocks, old pieces of costume jewelry, rainbow loom bracelets, or sticky notes to do this.

When you are still together, take your connection object and rub it in your hands or hold it close to your heart. Saying something like, “I’ll fill this rock full of my love so if you feel sad when I’m gone, you can rub it to get some out.” Use language that you and your child are used to. Also, stuffed toys are great for longer separations: Hug the stuffie and say, “I’ll fill this guy with love so you can hug him whenever you’d like to.”

When we create a connection bridge with our children, we are essentially teaching them how to miss us.

We want the main messages to be that it’s OK to be apart and that we don’t love them any less or feel they are any less important when this happens. Sometimes we have to be away from the people we love and showing our children how to do this will help them feel less sad during times of separation.

What kind of connection bridge objects does your family use?

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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