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What to Tell Toddler When Parents Take Vacation Alone

What can I tell my 2 1/2 yr old toddler, so we help him hang out with his grandparents for 5 nights, while mom&dad take a much needed vacation. He's a great kid, but we've never left him alone overnight.... just the one overnight when mom delivered his younger brother&sister.
To keep it simple.. the routine for our kids will remain exactly the same.. BUT will my toddler be scarred for the next six months because mom and dad just disappear for five nights?......So far, I've only been telling him that his grandparents are coming to visit.... He doesn't know what a vacation is, and if he did he'd wheel his little suitcase out of the closet and go stand by the car. We've taken him on plenty of weekend trips, and we even successfully went camping one night, recently. But really, with my toddler plus 9month old twins in the house.. we are delighted to run off like back in our "dating" days. I just want to be sensitive to my toddlers emotions. We'll call often, but can we prepare him ? .. make some kind of calendar game out of it ? ... he's been learning the calendar days at daycare, and talks on the phone to us or some other relative often.... so I was thinking that between using the phone and tracking the calendar, he might learn something? usually when he's learning, he's quite distracted from crying. Just looking for ideas...I'm thinking the only drama is when he doesn't find us in our bed every morning.... the grandparents don't live close, but have visited often enough to be loved by all tree kids. :)

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My husband and I went away for 5 days just last month. We also have a 2.5 year old. He loves planes. Every time we saw one I told him mommy and daddy would be going on a plane and that he was going to have a sleep over party at grandma and pop pop's house. He got very excited. I'm not going to lie...he missed us, asked where we were every day and was so excited to talk to us when we called BUT (and here is the important part)he was just FINE!!!!

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Just tell him Mommy and Daddy are going on a trip for a few days. Show him on a calendar the days that you will be gone. Tell him who will be watching him and that he'll have with with them. Tell him that you'll call him to say goodnight every night (if you plan to) and what time that will be. Get him some stickers so he can put one on the calendar for each day you'll be gone and to visually show him when you'll be back. Make it sound like a good thing and he'll be fine. My husband and I have gone away for at least a weekend every year since our first child was born. Grandma kept the children while we were gone and while they missed us some, they had fund with Gramdma and were fine. Just keep the plan upbeat and don't apologize for it or he will pick up your anxiety and become anxious himself. Then - HAVE A GREAT TIME!!

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If you do not make a big deal of it, he won't. Do not
keep discussing it. The day of tell him you are going
on vacation or whatever terms you want to use. Do it
once. I am sure the grandparents will keep him busy.
Adults do not give kids enough credit. They are adaptable. He will probably have a ball while you are
gone. You will be the basket case worrying LOL, but
don't. This is his special time with grandma and grandpa. Enjoy your time away and relax, he will be

1 mom found this helpful

Wow M.!! Lucky you!! :) You got great responses already....just wanted to say have a great time! How awesome to be able to get away with your hubby after 3 kids...esp. twins!!
Our relationships with our spouses are so important and you are really strengthening the core of your family by having some free time together.
Have an awesome time!

Don't make a big deal out of it and don't tell him anything until a day or two before. At his age kids don't have a concept of time so 5 days will mean nothing to him. When you are on vacation call and speak with your parents but don't talk to him on the phone directly.

Hubby and I went on vacation when our 2 oldest were 1 and 3 yrs old and they didn't miss us as all. I've watched my grandkids many times and they've never missed their parents.

OMG, are you serious!
No, he will not be scarred.

I just spent 5 weeks in Puerto Rico where my family lives. During the weekdays, I left my 2 1/2 year old with my parents at THEIR house, where my daughter is not too familiar with the surroundings. I left her at my parents' house for 3 out of the 5 weeks, 5 straight days each time, only picking her up on the weekends. She cried as I was leaving the first time, but had stopped crying even BEFORE I had a chance to pull out of the driveway!

I tried to call every night, as you suggest, but many of those times she was so busy having fun with the Abuelos, and she did not want to talk on the phone. It just made things worse for her and for my parents for me to try to force her to talk to me when she didn't need to do it.

The calendar thing is a terrible idea. Even if he is "learning" the calendar at preschool, he doesn't understand what 5 minutes are, let alone 5 days. I tried the calendar with my daughter, and the calling every night. After getting better at this over the weeks that we were in Puerto Rico, I realized that my daughter needed time away from her Mami too. It was a "vacation" for her as well and I was intruding on her independence. Of course, my parents spoiled her! Don't take it personally if your son doesn't miss you at all and in fact, is an absolute angel with your parents while you are away :).

Please thank your lucky stars that your parents are willing to give you this amazing gift of staying in YOUR house for 5 days with your THREE kids! That is amazing. Accept this gift with an open heart and a clear mind and don't make it worse for them and for your son by complicating things. If you don't relax and allow them to be, your parents' sacrifice will be wasted. Just go and have a good time.

The biggest drama for HIM will be when YOU find it hard to leave him. Kids his age are very resilient, but also tuned into their parents emotions. PLUS they dont have a very good conception of time. Keep the explainations short and simple. "Mommy & Daddy are going bye bye and you are going to stay with Grandma to help her take care of the babies. We will call you later to say good night. be a good boy and help Grandma."
You cant prepare him in advance, because it will give him time to fret and then give you time to worry. Tell him the night before. Then leave quickly with NO LONG goodbyes as if you were going to the store. After you have gone the grandparents could use a calendar to help him understand when you will be coming back. As far as not finding you in your bed, he will be surprised to find his grands there and probably get a big kick out of it.


You both have to take control of this, or you're never going to have a good time without feeling guilty (what kind of vacation would that be??) Put a positive spin on this!!

Buy a clear plastic container ( Family Dollar, kmart, walmart, etc)...fill it with fun stuff, coloring books, crayons, board games, audio books, small new toys, a new small stuffed animal, etc...get plenty of snacks...(you could even let him pick some things out) and you don't have to spend alot of money...Do you live near a Family Dollar or 99c store?

Tell your child this is his vacation box. Tell him "Mommie & Daddy are going on vacation and while we're gone, you'll have a box full of goodies to help keep you busy on YOUR VACATION until we get back from OUR VACATION". Make a big deal about WHEN YOU GET BACK, instead of WHEN YOU BOTH LEAVE... don't explain this vacation anymore to him if he cries and don't have a dramatic good-bye...We dropped our kids off the night before we left (we actually had a romantic night at home without them) and left the next morning. Enjoy...

My husband and I went away for 5 days just last month. We also have a 2.5 year old. He loves planes. Every time we saw one I told him mommy and daddy would be going on a plane and that he was going to have a sleep over party at grandma and pop pop's house. He got very excited. I'm not going to lie...he missed us, asked where we were every day and was so excited to talk to us when we called BUT (and here is the important part)he was just FINE!!!!


Don't worry; your son won't be scarred for six months because you've been away for five days. Kids are a lot tougher than we give them credit for, and when you return he'll have forgotten all about your absence. The short attention span at this age works to your advantage. The separation is going to be harder on you than on him, especially if his grandparents keep him occupied. I used to stress over leaving our daughter for an extended weekend until I discovered that she had more fun when we were away because so many family members pitched in to keep her distracted.

I wouldn't place too much emphasis on preparing him. The bigger deal you make out of your impending trip, the more uneasy he's going to become. Kids respond to adults' reactions, so if you treat your trip as something to look forward to (and it is) he'll pick up on your enthusiasm. And stay upbeat when you talk to him on the phone, even if he cries. If he senses you're distressed he'll follow suit.

Relax and enjoy your time alone with your husband. We moms have a habit of forgetting that our marriages still need nurturing when our kids are small.

I agree with making it more of a vacation for him, having special time with grandma and grandpa. Having them watch the kids at your house may help your son by letting him have his familiar bed, toys and routine in place. If you have not left the kids overnight, I would not leave for 5 nights without doing a couple of practice runs to get them used to it for a night or two. That's the best preparation you can do. He doesn't need to know what a vacation is (or that you are off going to some fun place without him), just tell him that sometimes moms and dads travel without their kids, and that the kids get to spend time at "camp grandpa/grandma"
I would be sure that before you leave, you write him a letter and enclose some stickers, new crayons, ice cream place gift card with each one, and have grandma and grandpa leave him out one each day at the breakfast table.

Hi M.
I'd bill it as them having a vacation with grandparents and although I would give my/his parents the routine I would let the caregiving grandparents have the fun they want with the kids, as they would a vacation. Maybe taking day trips etc.
If you put on your happy face and leave knowing they will have fun and are in good hands, they will react as such.
Just a thought

We just left our son recently for three nights, he was one month shy of three, and had one set of grandparents watch our son for 1/2 time, and the other the other 1/2 time. He had a blast, and the next time we went to visit his grandparents, he told me to drop him off and told me to go to Mexico. We see them monthly,he loves to visit them, and this was the first real time we were going away.

I had explained to my son that daddy and I were going to Mexico with friends, on an airplane, and he was going to stay at grandma's and grandpa's. He understood. I made sure I told him, and reiterated that we were coming back, and that we'd always come back. He was fine. I don't think he missed us, or even asked about us in passing to grandparents. (I asked)

You could also tell him that when grandma and grandpa are going to sleep in your bed, so he's not surprised the first morning. Does he normally cry when you leave?

Everything will be fine. Have a great time!

As others have said, be very positive about the time he'll have with his grandparents ("special time"). If you're worried that he'll have a hard time with the separation, he'll pick up on that anxiety and think there is something to worry about. But if you emphasize how exciting and special it is to have extra time with his grandparents, he'll expect it to be a lot of fun.

In our family we talk about "long sleeps" to represent days, so you could tell him after 5 "long sleeps" you'll be back. You could also have your parents show him each day on the calendar when he wakes up. Another thing you might want to do is to have pictures around of you and your husband that are accessible to him. I recently made a little photo flip book on Snapfish for my 3 yo daughter to keep in her bed at night, because she had been feeling sad at bedtime and having trouble with that separation. She helped pick out the pictures and was excited when it arrived in the mail. Now every night at bedtime we talk about what she can do if she's feeling sad and missing us, and she knows that she has her little photo book (and a flashlight!) to "see" whoever she is missing.

Many parents try to minimize the negative feelings their kids experience, but I try to help my kids learn what they can do to cope with those difficult feelings to prepare them for what life really has in store. You might say, "You're going to have such a great time with grandma and grandpa! We're going to miss you while we're away. And if you miss us too and feel a little sad, that's okay. That means that you love us. And you can ask grandma or grandpa for a hug or a kiss or cuddle with your blankie (or whatever). And you can look at these pictures of us any time you want!" You get the idea. Just be careful that you don't wait until the last minute to tell him that you're going away when his grandparents come to visit, because he'll realize that there's probably a reason you left out that information from the beginning. If you're matter-of-fact about the going away part and it isn't "sprung" on him, he's more likely to be also. Have a great trip!

Hi M.,
I haven't read the other posts, so hopefully I'm not repeating any. I travel a lot for work and have since I returned after maternity leave, my daughter is now 6yo. Don't tell him anything before hand, toddlers don't have a good grasp of time. Since he is learning the calendar, when you call home you can tell him how many days it will be and say each day, "M, T, W, Th then Friday we'll be home"
and tell him how many times he'll have to go to bed at night or wakeup in the morning and help him count down. You can even leave a special calendar with your parents, again, don't give it to your son until right before leaving. You don't want to tell him until that day (or the night before if you will be leaving before he gets up). Try not to cry or be emotional, act as if it is the most natural thing in the world, and tell him he will have a lot of fun during his special time with his grandparents. Enjoy your trip!!!

I would play up to more what he is gonna do with grandma and grandpa rather then you and hubby are leaving. I'd make a big deal about them coming just to see him and that he is gonna be with just them for a few days. And make it more matter of factly that you are going away. But I'd really play up the grandparent thing. If he looks forward to that, he won't even miss you.

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