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Vacationing Without the Kids

QUESTION: My husband and I have decided to take a seven day cruise without our kids. I have made excellent arrangements with relatives, so I know they will be fine. Although I know it will be good for our marriage, how do I cope with the guilt of leaving my two-year-old and four-year-old at home?

ANSWER: Your marriage is the foundation of your family. It sounds as if it has been four years since the two of you have done anything like this together. The good news is that you are taking care of your marital relationship. You can rest assured that your children will benefit!

Your children's sense of well-being depends on a strong marital bond. All too often, parents neglect their marriage, only to discover that one day, they have drifted too far apart to come back together. Nurturing the relationship with your husband means that you will both return with renewed energy for each other as well as for the children.

In addition, the children have an important opportunity to establish a bond with their relatives during your absence. Having other adults, in addition to the parents, that the children can rely upon will result in a greater sense of security through an extended family network.

Also, leaving your children with the relatives may help them to rely on one another. Your children will experience comfort from the familiarity of their respective siblings. Although you may not have felt comfortable leaving your first child at two years of age, it is not uncommon for parents to feel greater security in leaving their children together. Like kittens in a litter, they will generate family warmth with each other.

Provide your children with family pictures and explain where you will be going. You can also hang a calendar with the seven days marked off to show where you will be each day and when you will be coming back. This will help them deal with your absence and develop trust in the fact that mommy and daddy will be returning home. When you do come back, bring them something small but special.

If you are still nervous, you can arrange to check in with your relatives every day. You will no doubt miss them and they will miss you. But it is also true that, like yourselves, they will have some great stories to share with the two of you!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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