When a parent has to go out for one evening it can cause anxiety in any child and when a parent travels for business and is gone for a few days it is upsetting for kids. They miss their Mommy or Daddy. When your child has Autism routines and knowing what is expected means everything to them so having a parent leave feels like the end of the world. What else in their life is going to change that they have no control over? A person that they view as a constant in their life that provides re-assurance and security is gone. What else can happen?
When your child is learning to speak and use words this amplifies the anxiety because its very foreign to them to share their inner most feelings. But its better then before when Johnny could not share anything at all and just look at me sadly, eyes fill with tears and then sit down and hit the floor repeatedly for 30 minutes crying endlessly.
What do I tell him? Do I tell him the night before and risk him waking up every one or 2 hours to check to see if Daddy has gone yet? Do I wait until he gets home from school to let him know? What if we have to tell him before he goes to school? If he has to watch Daddy get into a taxi to the airport and will he have enough time to calm down and get ready for school? What will happen at school because he can’t stop thinking about his Daddy going away? Will normal routines at school distract him from his feelings or frustrate him? Will other children acting up and yelling irritate him because he is already full of anxiety? Will the teachers and education assistants use a sensory diet all day knowing his Daddy is gone and Johnny is trying to control his anxiety and handle being at school. Will they forget and instead Johnny begins dumping bins of toys and blocks in the classroom until someone notices he needs help?
Well its summer now and Johnny is attending summer camp and Daddy has to go away for a week. Daddy is leaving in the latter part of the day so the kids will get to spend some quality time with him but they will see him leave for the airport. Daddy has been recording a video for the kids to watch everyday to be able to see and hear him and be re-assured that he is coming home and not to worry. I also show Johnny and Princess lots of pictures of where their Daddy has gone and I’ve created a social story that helps explains his trip as well.
Does all of this help? Daddy left yesterday afternoon and Johnny definitely understands and has accepted that his Daddy has gone away for work again. It is is definitely harder because my Father used to live with us and spend extra time with Johnny when Daddy traveled. What I am seeing is that in order to deal with Daddy being gone he wants to organize his stuff, his toys, my things, my cupboards, and my drawers. I like that he instinctively tries to figure out how to self-regulate himself and search for ways and things to help him feel better and bring order to how he is feeling. The drawback is I have my things where I want them and I have to jump in and help him realize this. Johnny can be pretty persistant that he knows where it should go and his way is the better way. One of my solutions is to turn this into learning a lifeskill and I get him to help me put the clean dishes away and tidy up the kitchen and sort laundry. In other words when life gives you lemons you make lemonade:)
How is Princess handling her Daddy going away? She is following her routines but is a bit fussy. She sings about Daddy and is cuddling me more.
I am glad that Johnny will be attending camp where he has lots of fun so that the days go by fast and before he knows it Daddy will be back home. Six more sleeps and Daddy is back.
Six more sleeps to go and Daddy is back.