It happens all the time. The best laid travel plans get disrupted and, instead of being home in time for dinner, my flight is delayed and I have another night away from home. So I do what I always do and call my wife, Elle. She’s been there many times herself and has been prepared by twenty years of me travelling.
Anyone who travels for work understands: things happen, flights are grounded, connections are missed. But what about your children, do they understand? Probably not. How could they? All they know is that their parent packs a bag and says, “I’ll be home for dinner on Tuesday.”
I have had the good fortune to travel for work and to meet extraordinary people all across the nation. I knew I would be gone a lot after we had children. But I wanted them to have a better understanding of what Daddy did when he travelled.
So I began having my children come with me on some of my adventures.
I wanted them to see what I did when I went away, not just so they would understand if I were ever delayed getting home, but because I believed the value for them would be unmeasurable. I took – and take – them with me as often as I can because, as they grow, their understanding of what I do grows too.
I took my oldest son and locked him up in jail with me when I did a program teaching leadership to people hoping to make a new life on the outside. I took my daughter with me to speak with thousands of incoming college freshman. I took my younger son with me to work with tourism leaders trying to figure out how to attract business after the market collapsed. I make them partners in the experience. They carry their own bag. They are responsible for their tickets. And I always schedule a day, preferably at the backend of the trip, for the two of us to see the local sights and taste the local cuisine as well as debrief my child’s experience at the conference.
And when things go wrong, when planes are delayed or a flight is cancelled, they help me make alternative arrangements and pass the time in the airport. The result is that it’s not just Elle who understands when things happen. The children do too. It’s not just Elle who knows what I do when I go to work, the whole family does.
Here’s your challenge: in the next few months find one trip or day at work to take one of your children with you. They will understand you in a whole new way and you won’t feel quite so far away. Here are three things to plan for:
- Where is your child going to be if you’re in a high level meeting?
- What are the take-aways for them? Having a checklist of the things you would like them accomplish on the journey together frees you up to be present in the moment.
- Where am I blocking out an hour or two to debrief the trip? This may include unplugging them. When my children travel with me, I make sure they have a limited use of electronic devices because I want them in our space not cyberspace. The purpose of the trip isn’t to capture more Pokemon but to develop a deeper sense of the world around them and why I do what I do.
Some Conversation Starters:
-What was your favorite part of the trip?
-What’s one thing you learned from being at the conference?
-Name two people you met and had conversations with.
-Would you like to travel again with me next time? If so, why?
-If you had to do a book report about your trip, what would you talk about?
-What’s one thing you learned about the city we travelled to?
-What was your favorite meal during our journey?
Email me with your experiences-I would love to hear from you about your trip with your son or daughter after your trip together!
As a speaker and author, Curtis Zimmerman has impacted over one million people with his life-changing messages and award-winning programs. Curtis is an expert at transforming organizations by inspiring individuals to live their lives at performance level.
Want to be inspired? Check out his podcast The Next 24 Hours.