It’s been an interesting weekend for me. My 3 year old son has gone on his first trip without me. 500 miles by airplane to Sacramento with my mother to a family event.

It’s hard letting kids go away on their own. But it’s also so good for them.

Letting go is incredibly difficult, even though I knew this was coming. My mother likes taking her grandchildren on trips, and prefers to start around age 3. That’s old enough they can generally stand being away from home for a couple of nights.

One of the most challenging things this time around was dealing with my 6 year old daughter. She had a lot of fun on her trip over the summer with her grandmother, but she kept asking her brother if he was scared to go on his. Not the question he needed to be asked!

We put a stop to that quickly, explaining that he would have a lot of fun, and we needed to keep things positive.

It’s important to keep things positive. Young children do easily get worried about being away from home and family. We talked a lot about the fun things he’d be doing. We did touch on that it is okay to miss your family. Can’t ignore that completely, but we keep the emphasis away from that and on the positives.

It works well. My son was quite happy to leave Saturday morning.

One of the hardest parts is figuring out how much contact to have when your child is away. At this age, painfully, contact is often best being minimal. A reminder of home is more likely to result in more tears and sadness for a child on a trip. As they get older it gets easier to keep in contact… which is much easier on the parents too. It’s hard not even talking to your child for a couple of days!

One of the fun things is when your child comes back home. They’re glad to be back, and sometimes you can see the changes. My son is very quiet, for example. This trip may help him to express himself around other people better. Or not. Sometimes there really aren’t a lot of changes.

The right age to let a child go on a trip with someone else is a very personal decision. Not every child is ready for this kind of trip at an early age. Not every parent is ready to let go. You may not even have a family member up for taking your child on a trip without you.

But hard as it has been having my son away this weekend, I know he’s having a great time and will be glad to come home.