Summer is fast approaching! A season filled with sunny days, freedom, and a break from the stress of school. For many children of divorced families, the summer transition can be met with undue stress and anxiety as schedules are shifted and routines are changed. As parents, we want to support our children so they can focus their thoughts on being a kid in the summer. A quick way to do this is to remember Routine and Conversation.
Young children, and two-home families, thrive on structure. Creating a schedule for your child that is simple and routine can provide security in knowing what they are doing, where they are going, and who is taking them. Knowledge is powerful and calming for many kids!
- Create clear, visual schedules so that everyone in the family can understand and follow along! Let your kids help draw out and decorate the schedule through their eyes!
- A transitional object (a stuffed animal, a book, favorite blanket, etc.) can be utilized as a calming tool for children going back and forth between homes. This object can be stabilizing for kids in both of their homes.
- Include your kids when making summer plans – whether that’s about vacations, summer camps, dinner recipes, etc. Their participation shows them that you are open to hearing them. The balance here is to make sure that your kids know that you and your co-parent are the ultimate decision makers and leadership figures. You are able to listen and respect their opinion, and make a different decision that is best for the family at large.
- Recognize your locus of control. You only have the ability to manage and control what happens at your house. You have the opportunity to regulate how your house and routine is organized and maintained.
- Be thoughtful around technology use with your kids over the summer. Empower them with the opportunity to experience boredom! Boredom provides a chance for kids to enhance their own creativity and self-regulation.
Parents of adolescents however often experience a trickier balance — although structure can create safety for many children, your adolescent will lean into wanting freedom and flexibility. It’s important to loosen a demanding schedule a little and allow a safe space for your adolescent to foster his or her own independence.
Kids have big emotions, and sometimes they aren’t sure what to do with it. Sometimes kids feel guilty for loving both parents and having fun at each parent’s house. Acknowledge and validate whichever feelings come up for your child and highlight that it is okay to love and cherish both parents. Remember – your former spouse is still your child’s current parent. Your emotions are for you to care for. Be sure to regulate your emotions in your own capacity, rather than placing it on your children. Allow space for dialogue and questions. Provide a safe and supportive environment for your children to express how frustrated, sad, or stressed these transitions and changes can be. Validate the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Check in regularly with your children to see how they are feeling about their transitions. Make adjustments as needed and allow time to adjust! Listen to their thoughts, validate their feelings, and acknowledge how much love you have for them and that you will always be there. Most importantly, enjoy the summer time you have with your kids!