Q: How much time is too much time away from home? Is it one day a week, three times a week? What would be the guidelines for how much time we allow our kids to visit others without us?
A:It depends. I know, not the answer you wanted, right? I can’t give you a hard-and-fast rule—parenting isn’t like that because every child and every situation is different. But I can give you some guidelines or questions to think about when considering such time away from mom and dad.
How visits in the past have gone. Is your child cranky every time she comes home from Grandma’s? Is she subdued? Does she cry a lot when you’re not around? How hard is it to re-establish routines when the child returns home?
What do you need? As parents, we’re used to putting our needs last, but sometimes, it’s important to realize that we need a break from our kids as much as they need a break from us. So if you know that by mid-summer, you really could use a long weekend by yourself (or with your spouse), then schedule something ahead of time. We all need mini-breaks, such as a night out or lunch with a friend, so make sure you hire sitters (or swap babysitting with friends) for those smaller chunks of time.
What do they need? Kids learn and grow apart from Mom and Dad. An overnight camp during the summer, weekends with grandparents or other relatives, spending the night at a friend’s house—all of these activities help kids become more independent and resourceful.
Who are they spending time with? You didn’t ask this exactly, but we should be careful with whom who we leave our children. For example, vet summer camps by asking how staff are selected and trained. For the families of your child’s friends that you might not know well, ask questions like who lives in the house, who will be home during the sleepover, what kind of supervision will be given, etc.
You take all of that information and you make a case-by-case decision on away-from-home trips, overnights, etc. Sometimes, a child isn’t ready for an overnight one year, but by the next, she’s ready to go.