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Quality counts with family and friends

Explain to your children about your travel plans, experts advise.
Explain to your children about your travel plans, experts advise.

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• Interactive: How do you cope with leaving family and friends behind when on business trips? Share your tales and tips here. 

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Business travelling can take its toll not just on the executive, but also on their friends and family.

For the parent, leaving a spouse and children behind for extended periods can cause problems on their return, just as the single person risks losing contact with friends.

Rom De Vries spends about 50 percent of his time travelling, and the rest of his time for his wife and children in Munich, Germany.

When he's away, he puts all his effort into business, while at home, he is the total family man.

"I believe that when you are at home that you really dedicate yourself to the family, especially when the kids are there," he told CNN.

For his wife Saskia the difficulties arise as soon as Rom starts to pack for the next trip.

"The moment he needs to pack his stuff, this is always, 'oh, yeah, quality time is over, job is starting, weekend is over'," she said.

For the children the process of separation is equally hard. They miss daddy and have little concept of time.

Psychotherapist Gillian Walton advises travelling parents to explain in simple terms when they will be returning.

"I think it's probably helpful to say: 'there'll be three more sleeps and then I'll be back' or 'you'll have your breakfast three times and then I'll be there and the next day we'll have breakfast together.'

"Make it very simple and very practical and rooted in what they're doing."

While travelling maintain contact with the family, even if it is just a short phone call, Walton said.

"Try to stick to the agreements that you've made, to ring at a certain time, because not doing so raises anxiety and fear, and anger and irritation."

Returning to the family can be as stressful as leaving it. During days spent working tirelessly, the business traveller may start to think that home life is idyllic, only to find that the bubble bursts soon after they walk through the front door.

"Re-entry is difficult because often the person who's been away feels that there's a scene going on at home from which he or she is excluded, doesn't have a place, doesn't belong," Walton said.

"Quite often the person who's left at home has some feelings about having had to manage on her or his own while the other is away and has created a life that doesn't really include the absent one quite so much.

"So, the person who's at home has to make space to include the person who's been away, and the person who's been away has to find a sensitive way of actually infiltrating."

For single Nick King, family arrangements are not a problem – it is his friendships he has to focus on.

Like the family man De Vries, King spends 50 percent of his time on business trips and rarely sees his friends.

"You get a whole bunch of messages on your phone and then they start tailing off, you know, because you haven't responded to the first five," laments King when he returns from trips.

Business psychologist Kati St. Clair's advice to King is to ensure his holiday time is set aside for personal time with friends.

"What I tend to advise, certainly to my clients is to cut out that holiday time and keep it sacred and hold those few who are prepared to put up with this and who are dear to them in some kind of constancy," St Clair said.

While his social life is on the thin side, King's love life is non–existent.

"I've been doing the job for over three years and haven't been in a serious relationship in that time. It would be almost impossible, but also unfair," 43-year-old King said.

But St Clair warns that when he gives up the travelling job, he may find himself out on his own.

"If suddenly the merry-go-round stops, the job changes and suddenly they have to stay put and their contemporaries are all in a huge social circle, they are married, they have got their friends -- and there they are, very, very high and dry."


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