For many children of divorced families, the summer transition can cause undue stress and anxiety as schedules are shifted and routines change. As parents, we want to support our children so they can focus on being a kid. To do this remember Routine and Conversation.
Young children thrive on structure. Creating a simple schedule for your child can provide them security in knowing what they are doing, where they are going, and who is taking them. This knowledge can be powerful and calming.
- Create clear, visual schedules that everyone in the family can understand. Let your kids help draw out and decorate the schedule.
- 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.
- Include your kids when making summer plans – whether that’s about vacations, summer camps, dinner recipes, etc. Be open to hearing them and respecting their opinions, while you and your co-parent are the ultimate decision makers.
- Recognize you only have the ability to manage and control what happens at your house and to regulate how your routine is organized and maintained.
- Be thoughtful around technology use with your kids. It’s okay to let them experience boredom! Boredom provides a chance for kids to enhance their own creativity and self-regulation.
Parents of adolescents often experience a trickier balance. Your adolescent will want more freedom and flexibility. It’s important to loosen a demanding schedule a little and allow a safe space for them to foster independence.
Kids have big emotions, and aren’t always sure what to do with them. Sometimes kids feel guilty for loving both parents and having fun at each parent’s house. Acknowledge and validate whichever feelings come up and that it’s okay to love and cherish both parents. Be sure to regulate your own emotions rather than placing them on your children. 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. Make adjustments as needed and allow time to adjust. Acknowledge how much you love them and that you will always be there. Most importantly, enjoy the summer with your kids!