*This is part 2 of the blog series Navigating Summer Routines When Parents are Divorced. Click here if you haven't read part 1.
Do not argue with your former spouse in front of your child.
Children of divorce who witness their parents frequently arguing learn two things, they are the central cause of the arguments (which often causes them to develop feelings of guilt) and that problems are solved by arguing instead of negotiation. Save the arguing for interactions when your child is not present or able to overhear the argument. Do not cause your child increased emotional distress. Often the schedule changes as the school year comes to an end and summer begins. A few tips or helping summer visitation run smoothly:
Summer visitation schedules vary from case to case. If a child’s parents live a significant distance from the other, often kids will spend a span of weeks at a time with the other parent. This can be exciting or anxiety provoking depending on your child’s temperament and relationship quality with the other parent. Make a summer calendar to help your child see when they are going to be with either parent. Also put things to look forward to on the calendar such as birthdays, camps, vacations, etc.
Be supportive of their emotions
Anytime a child has to transition from one place to another can cause some hesitation or anxiety. This is true in many situations including visitation. Listen to your child and help them come up with methods to decrease their nervousness about any upcoming transition. If your child is nervous about staying several weeks at a time with the other parent, help them identify positive things about staying with the other parent (i.e. what friends do they have when they stay with the other parent, think about the fun things they do while at the other parents home, etc). Most importantly, be positive about their upcoming visit and encouraging. If you openly express negative emotions related to the visitation, your child may also develop negative and resentful emotions.
Encourage them to have fun while staying with the other parent.
It is fine to acknowledge that you will miss your child while they are gone and that you realize they will miss you too. Despite the fact that you will miss each other, help your child to realize that you hope that they will have a pleasant or even fun time while staying with the other parent. Help them identify fun aspects about their time when at the other parent’s home. While they are gone say “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you” rather than “I miss you”.
Allow your child to call or facetime the other parent when with you.
Children of divorce naturally miss the parent they are not currently with. If your child is missing the other parent, allow them to have contact. Video calls are preferable if possible, that way your child can both hear and see the other parent.
Be prepared and realistic about expectations.
Plan to have fun with your child on their extended visits but be realistic about the adjustment periods your child will require when transitioning between homes. It can be difficult for children to transition between homes particularly if there are different rules and expectations. Give them some space to “settle in” on their own terms as they come to your home. Make sure they feel at home in both places and have things that help them be comfortable. Know your children’s food preferences, allergies, and reactions and be prepared when they are in your home to accommodate their needs and wants.
Keep your co-parent informed
Strive to communicate with your ex-spouse respectfully. The old adage “Do unto others” is true here as well. If you would like to be informed of vacations, child care, and other activities your children will be involved in make sure to keep the other parent informed of these things as well while the children are in your home. This will allow everyone to feel more comfortable if they know where and what the children will be doing when they are away.
Kimberly Wenz-Sherrill, LCSW
Sara Siner Darling, LMFT