It’s official! The end of another school year is in sight. As of today, we’re 14 days away and counting. My youngest daughter is so ready to be done with the whole school thing. For her, that last day can’t get here fast enough.
Me? Uhhhmmm not so much…I’m somewhere in between YES!! and total dread. While I’m looking forward to ditching the “wake up at the crack of dawn and deal with grumpy kids” school run, I’m not quite ready to dive head first into summer. Saying goodbye to another school year also means saying goodbye to my somewhat predictable schedule.
I’m not the only one feeling a little conflicted. My clients parenting out of two homes are experiencing a similar kind of dread. For some, the dread level is much worse. While summer offers the opportunity for blocks of quality time with kids, it usually comes at a high price. Summer for them involves grappling with issues like… who has to give up their time with kids to make room summer camp, how to fit in a family vacation around the other’s parent’s scheduled time, switching roles while juggling work or facing the possibility of not seeing their children for weeks at a time.
Sorting all of this out can be super stressful for kids too, especially when parents are at odds with each other. Instead of getting excited about summer vacations some kids unfortunately get a ring side seat to their parents battling it out in court.
Even when parents are in sync about the summer schedule, the change in routine still leaves lots of kids feeling anxious and unsettled.
Whether you’re a veteran at parenting apart or facing a first summer, here are a couple of tips I’ve offered in the past (with a few updates) on ditching the dread so you and your kids can have a successful summer.
Let go of the guilt
Unfortunately too many parents treat kid free time more like a dirty little secret than an opportunity to get some much needed me time. Do yourself a favor and bypass the guilt. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a break from being Mom or Dad. We all need it from time to time.
To make the most of your summer break, plan ahead. Take 10 minutes to jot down a list of things you’d normally consider self-indulgent. You can also include things you’ve wanted to get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.
It’s also okay to share your summer plans with kids. Not only does it model good self-care but it
sends a clear message that enjoying time apart is okay and you support their relationship with the other parent.
Get creative and talk it up
Do your best to help build kid’s excitement about their summer getaway with the other parent. Spend time talking it up, making a summer calendar or maybe brainstorming ideas about ways to make it special.
Consider things like:
- Sending your child with a small photo album so they can make a memory book of their summer with the other parent.
- Encouraging children to journal or keep a diary about summer events and activities.
- Creating a summer collection box so kids can collect special trinkets or items to remind them of things they did (for example, a special shell from a trip at the beach or program from a summer concert they attended.)
- Packing special items from your home that children can use and enjoy while at the other household. (P.S. If your child’s something special is something major, like a gaming system or a new puppy, be a considerate co-parent and talk to your Ex first before packing it up.)
While it seems a little outdated in this day and age, kids still love getting mail. Instead of relying exclusively on modern day technology (i.e. phone calls, texts, Skype or emails) consider writing your children letters or sending small care packages. Not only is it a great way to connect but also it offers a fantastic opportunity to get your kids writing. The other added plus… some very special memories for both of you.
Be a considerate co-parent
Although you may miss your kids terribly, remember to be respectful of the other parent’s time and take a balanced approach when contacting kids over the summer. Since every situation is different, it’s best to gauge frequency and time of day on your children’s need and ages. Young children may need regular phone calls while a teen feels perfectly comfortable with getting a text every couple of days.
Whenever possible use good co-parenting etiquette and consult your Ex to find out what will work best with their summer schedule.
Think outside of the box
When it comes down to deciding how to schedule around your children’s summer activities do your best stay flexible. While it may be hard to think about your time with kids taking a back seat to summer camps or vacations, do your best to find opportunities where you can. For example, suppose your oldest son, Justin, wants to go to summer camp during your scheduled time. Instead of digging in your heels about camp not cutting into your time, consider it a chance to have some great one-on-one time with your younger son, Erin.
Stay calm and carry on
If kids sense you’re anxious about being alone, you can bet their QT with the other parent will be tainted with worry. No matter how sad or anxious you feel, remember, you are the parent. Do your best to responsibly manage your feelings. Don’t leave your children wondering if you’re going to be okay while they’re gone. If necessary, get support from trusted friend or family member to help you sort things out.
It’s perfectly okay to tell your children you love them and you’ll miss them. However, don’t forget to reassure them that time with the other parent is important and that you want them to enjoy it.
Whether this is your first summer or your fifth, don’t forget when time apart is treated as a asset and not a liability, it’s a win-win for both you and your kids.
Wishing you smooth sailing this summer.
Want more practical strategies and insight on how to deal with the tough everyday issues divorce brings?
Learn more about coaching with Christina or check out my book Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids.
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