Missing a Child's Big Event - How Bad?

Filed under: Day Care & Education, Opinions, Relationships, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Teens

How bad is it to get stuck at work and miss your child's big event? Credit: jupiterimages

Back-to-school night just passed and some mom friends were talking about how special these nights are... and how awful it is if a parent has to miss it. But sometimes missing a big event really, truly, can't be avoided. So if a parent just can't make it to the play, or choir recital or open school night... how bad?

To find out, I called my friend and Mommy Advisor Rosanne Tobey, director of Calm and Sense Therapy, a counseling service, for her take on the situation.

"This is a tough one," she started. "How a parent handles it depends on how big a moment it is for the child. If it's a really big moment, like the first day of kindergarten, of course it's going to feel worse for the child."

But for other important events, like a school play that a parent just can't make it to, it's still not ideal to miss them, but there may be ways you can mitigate the damage, Tobey said.

"For instance, I know a mom who just had surgery and couldn't go to back-to-school night...""At this mom's school, the students write notes to the parents and during back-to-school night, the parents write back. So this mom called the teacher and got her child's note in advance, and wrote her child back in advance, so that her child wasn't the only student with no note," said Tobey. "The point is, there are ways you can participate even if you can't physically be there."

Here is Tobey's advice for what to do if you really just can't make it:

Don't beat yourself up -- take action. "In these times, parents may occasionally have no choice but to miss a child's event for work," Tobey acknowledged. A parent beating herself up won't make a child feel better, but taking some steps to help a child feel the parent is there in spirit, will.

Alternatively participate. Find a way to let your child know you are thinking about her by sending a picture with her, or writing a letter that someone can read to her before or after the event. "Surely some people will read this and think 'a picture of you is a sad excuse for your presence,' but we don't live in an ideal world and something is better than nothing, and sometimes you have to do the best you can with what you've got," said Tobey.

Celebrate the event at home. If you have to miss her school play, for example, make sure someone videotapes it so you can all watch it together at home. "Treat the at-home viewing as if it's as important as the original event," said Tobey.

Create rituals with your child. These will give her comfort even when you're not together. For instance, Tobey says, "This is a trick from a child's book The Kissing Hand. Before your child leaves, put a kiss in her hand and say, 'This kiss will stay in your hand all day, put it to your cheek to feel a kiss from me.' And your child can do the same to your hand."

Keep track of your patterns. "These suggestions are not meant to say ''It's okay to miss all of your child's events because you can make it up to them,'" stressed Tobey. "Eventually, these won't be good enough. These tactics only work if your child already knows that you are there for them. If you have to use these regularly, you might want to ask yourself if your priorities are working for your family. You don't need to make a huge deal out of every little thing in in child's life, but you don't want to be dismissive of events that may be a very big deal to your child."

Have you missed an important event in your child's life? What happened, and how did you make it up to him or her?

If you've ever had a less-than-perfect parenting moment that has left you wondering, "How bad?" Send it to Sabrina at PrincessLPink9@aol.com. She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink and princess-y gift site:
PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.