How To Reduce Anxiety When Traveling Without Your Kids

May 7, 2018

Question:  Should a mom leave her young kids for a girls weekend even if she is quite anxious about being away from them?  A friend recently messaged me about this, as she began to feel uneasy about being away from her children for the first time overnight.  She told me that she is struggling with […]

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Question:  Should a mom leave her young kids for a girls weekend even if she is quite anxious about being away from them? 
A friend recently messaged me about this, as she began to feel uneasy about being away from her children for the first time overnight.  She told me that she is struggling with worry, particularly with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong.  Though she admitted it did not feel rational to be consumed with thoughts of catastrophe, she just couldn’t get the worst case scenarios out of her mind.

My dears, she is not alone.  So many mamas have this exact same struggle, particularly before they leave their kids for the very first time.  So first thing’s first:  any time you do anything for the first time it’s scary.  So give yourself grace and permission to feel what you’re feeling.  Of course, Anxiety is a stinker and makes us super uncomfortable, but since Anxiety doesn’t seem to want to change tactics anytime soon, we must learn to cope. 
Maybe you noticed that I didn’t say anxiety, but Anxiety, with a capital A. That’s no typo, my friends. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of Anxiety as an actual person, with human traits and tendencies.  If there’s one thing I know for certain…it’s that Anxiety is a huge liar. Anxiety’s favorite thing to do is put “what if” scenarios in our mind and makes us feel like these situations are actually going to happen.  Anxiety tricks us by taking us out of our present moment, thereby stealing our opportunity for present moment joy.  So not cool.  No wonder Anxiety has, like, no friends.

Alright, enough about that loser. 

The # 1 Way To Reduce Travel Anxiety

My first bit of advice may be difficult to receive, but I’m just going to say it.  This is one of those things that you just have to do.

Honestly, this reminds me of when I put my son on the bus to kindergarten for the first time.  Prior to the bus’s arrival, he seemed to be fine; he said he was excited, even.  That is, until the bus pulled up. All of the sudden he was no longer fine – in fact, he was literally digging his heels in; he certainly did not want to get on that bus please and thank you.  I basically had to physically put him on the bus (to which the bus driver replied “there’s no moms allowed on the bus!” which was truly helpful for the newly discovered anxiety, I’m sure). So I scurried back off the bus, and with as much enthusiasm as I could muster said “okkk bye!” And then he was gone.  But you know what happened next?  Aside from me wiping my tears away over a mimosa with my mom?  Yep, he came home, after doing just fine at school.  

Obviously, it’s very difficult, but at the end of the day,  you have to make yourself do the hard thing.  The basic premise of cognitive behavioral therapy states that if you change your behavior, you can change your thoughts and then you can change your mood. 

The Brain’s Attempt To Cure Travel Anxiety

Another reason why the first step is changing your behavior is that our personal experience is our mind’s most reliable source of truth. Say you could know 100 people who go away on girls weekends all the time and they leave their kids and everything’s fine and all the people consistently stay alive.  More than likely, you will still feel anxious, and your inner monologue would likely still be reading: “But I could be the one; this could be the time where it all goes wrong.” 

Again, that’s Anxiety being a liar.  In order to make things a little easier for yourself ahead of your trip, try taking into account  the evidence for the scary thing happening ( i.e. the news shows bad things happening all the time) and evidence against the scary thing happening (i.e. nothing bad has ever happened to anyone I know; nothing bad has happened to me when traveling before).  

Friends, our brains just want to tell us a story that is certain.  The brain doesn’t care if it’s telling a story that’s true  – instead, it merely wants to know that something is certain because it is not a fan of ambiguity. So what ends up happening many times is that your brain convinces you that something bad is going to happen if you leave your kids for the weekend…and then you might just stay home, where all is safe and controllable.  

Well, not so fast.  Rationally, we must take a step back and realize that you’re not actually any more in control of what happens to you  at home or on vacation.  Another way Anxiety lies to us is by telling us that we actually have more control than we do.   So if you don’t have control if you choose to go, and you also don’t have control if you don’t go, it’s time to consider the benefits of going vs. not going on your trip.  

Find Your Reason For Traveling Without Kids

Which leads me to my next point:  you have to think about WHY you are going.  You have to think about the reason why you would go on this trip.  It could be self-care; it could be just doing something good for you, getting a much needed break. Friends, I’m giving you permission to take that break, whether you’re a mama or not.  Now lean in because what I’m about to say might be the most helpful tidbit I can give you today. When you leave your kids, you are actually doing something really good and really healthy for them.  You’re modeling healthy coping; you’re modeling healthy behavior.

I don’t think I have to tell you that kids are SPONGES.  They are excellent observers and rarely does anything escape them.  Think about it: if you never ever ever leave your kids until the time they’re 10, 12, 14 years old, you are subconsciously communicating to your kids that leaving each other is not safe, that it is not good and we don’t do that in our family.  You’re communicating through your actions that we are safest when we just stay home and stay together and you could potentially be promoting anxiety in your kids.  Everything we do and say, whether we want to admit it or not does have an impact on our kids.  Now, I’m also a firm believer that everything can be undone and unsaid and apologized for and made right, so please don’t be anxious about that.

It also behooves us to consider what we are communicating to our kids if we do go away.

My husband and I are going to Hawaii this summer and it will be the longest we have ever been away from our boys. I know I will miss them so much, but what are we modeling to our kids by taking this vacation, just my husband and I?  Well first of all, we  are modeling that our marriage is very, very important and that our relationship is the foundation of our family. In fact, even when we do a date night together, we talk about this in front of our kids.  Why?  Because we want them to do the same thing some day.  We want them to go into their marriages someday and be the husband who says “I’m going to initiate a date night; I’m going to be the husband who says ‘you know what babe, let’s go away  just the two of us.'” 

We are giving our kids a gift when we get some time alone and away together. You’re giving your kids a gift when you do a girls weekend.  I’m certain you will still be feeling anxious about leaving your kiddos, and that’s ok.  If you’re looking for additional help coping with anxiety, check out my free 5-day anxiety reducing email course in which I outline the exact skills I teach my clients.   You can sign up here!

One last thing…I know these are scary, big deal things I’m telling you to do.  It’s not easy, but I totally believe you can do it.  Keep yourself in the present moment by saying “right now I am shopping with my friends” or “right now I am having dinner with my friends,” or “right now I am having some draaanks!” or whatever it is you’re doing. Be where you are and return to now as often as you need to when you catch Anxiety at his same old tricks.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like more guidance on this topic or anything else.  Have a beautiful day, my friends!

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