Saturday, July 15, 2006


Dear Lisa,

Hello. I have an emergency situation with a family member who lives in Europe. I have to fly there to visit for about a week. Would it be OK to leave my 17 months old daughter with her father and my mother or should I take her with me to Europe? I am the one who takes care of her all day and I don't know how the separation would affect her. However on the other hand I don't like the idea of her flying across the ocean.Thank you.

“Need to Leave the Country”

Dear “Need to Leave the Country”,

It sounds like you are needed by a family member in Europe. If you bring your daughter with you, you will not be able to give 100% of your attention to the situation. Although you are used to taking care of your daughter all day, the disruption in her routine traveling over seas may be a stress on you and her. In addition, trying to take care of her and the emergent situation at the same time may also be very draining. It is a long plane trip, and many children at that age do not do well confined to a small area. Being that your mother and baby’s father are willing and able to take care of your child, it seems like a viable option to leave her home in an environment that is familiar to her.

Developmentally, children experience the greatest stress from separation from their mother at 9 months old. (1) The developmental stage of a 17 month old is quite different. At this stage children are very interested in exploring and learning about their environment. She probably will be quite content doing this with the company and attention from her dad and grandma. It will also be a great bonding experience for her dad who will get to spend so much time with her, not to mention the benefits of the wisdom and love she will receive from grandma. Children grow and learn from interactions with different caregivers. Therefore, giving your daughter the opportunity to be with other adults will teach her social skills and encourage her to be more versatile.

Ultimately, it is your decision if you are going to bring her or not, because you are the mom and know what is best for your baby. Be assured that many parents leave their child for a multitude of reasons and the children do just fine. I’m sure your daughter will miss you because you are her mom, but at her age she can be distracted with activities and will not remember that you were gone when she is older. It is reassuring to know that a person’s long term memory does not have the ability to recall events under three years old.

On the other hand, I am more worried about you. You may have a more difficult time with the separation than she will. One of the most difficult things to be, is a mother. Chances are, no matter where you go, your child will always be a part of you and you will always feel the need to take care of her. Planning special mommy and daughter time when you get back can help you get through it. If you do decide to go, be prepared that she may snub you for a little while when you get back. Just be patient because if this does occur it will be short lived. Before you know it, you’ll be back to your regular routine again.

Have a safe trip.

(1) Chow M, Durand B, Feldman M, Mills M. Handbook of Pediatric Primary Care. Albany, New York:Delmar Publishers Inc. 1984: 329-330.

Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Advice Updated Daily

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