Life is messy, sometimes. Too many parents have found themselves missing special family occasions like the holidays, a birthday, or a school performance because of divorce, deployment, a hospital stay or other unexpected circumstances. These difficult times apart are laden with emotions both for parents and for kids.
Preparing for these instances, by talking with your child beforehand, can help ease any separation anxiety, frustration, or disappointment. The eight titles below will help to foster those conversations about a loved one who has to be away from the family at an unseasonable time.
1. I Miss You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt is the story of a boy who has all sorts of questions and worries about his mother while she is not there. When he asks, “Mama, do you miss me so much that you’re coming home to me, no matter what,” his mother lovingly reassures him with answers to all his questions. (ages 2 and up)
2. A father goes off to war in Vietnam in Year of the Jungle, an autobiographical picture book by bestselling author Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games series. Suzy, the daughter, is left to ponder whether her dad is safe and what he's experiencing in an unfamiliar environment. Suzy processes many fears and feelings while her father is in a place so unknown to her. (ages 5 and up)
3. The classic The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is the story of Chester anxiously preparing for his first day of school. Chester is not excited about leaving his mother but she reassures him by saying, “Whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think, ‘Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.'” It is an impactful message to impart to a little one who is anxious about being away from a parent. (ages 4 and up)
4. Toddlers and preschoolers will surely relate in Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney. In the story, Mama takes Llama Llama to school for the very first time. When Mama leaves, it causes great worry for Llama Llama. But, once the day gets going, Llama Llama learns he can have fun and will see Mama again soon. (ages 2 and up)
5. Mama has to go on a business trip and Bunny is not happy about it one bit in Bunny’s Staycation by Lori Richmond. But, Papa crafts a plan full of adventures for Bunny to have a staycation right at home while Mama is traveling. Bunny learns that he is cared for and can have his own fun adventures until Mama returns. (ages 2 and up)
6. Another story to help kids with a parent's absence on account of military service is Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut. In the story, a father uses the North Star, to play virtual catch with his son halfway around the world. The tale concludes as the father reassures his child that he'll return. He says, “I’ll board the plane and ask the crew to race the star right back to you.” (ages 4 and up)
7. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is a beautiful book that reminds kids that they're connected, by an invisible string made of love, to those who may not be present. This book works well for family members who are no longer around, whether temporarily or someone who may have passed. (ages 4 and up)
8. No matter where someone is, love travels in Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. Each page spread compares love to something tangible, such as, “So climb any mountain…climb up to the sky! My love will find you. My love can fly!” This is a reassuring book and conveys to kids that love has no boundaries, especially when families can’t be together. (ages 4 and up)
Hopefully, reading these books with your kids will help to remind them that they are loved and will be missed while you (or someone else) can't be there.
Connect with Jodie Rodriguez on her site Growing Book by Book.