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Summer Vacation and the Kids are with Their Dad: Thoughts for Divorced Moms

It’s summer!  The kids are on vacation from school.  Depending on your divorce decree/separation agreement, your kids may be spending the summer or part of it with their dad.  How do you feel about that?  Hopefully, you have a good relationship with their dad and the kids are totally comfortable with him and his family so you feel good about it.  While you may miss them, time for yourself can sound pretty good.

That’s the ideal.  Even if the circumstances are less than ideal, it is very important that you handle kids’ time with their dad with grace and ease.

  Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1)    Be supportive.  If your kids are excited about their summer plans with their dad and his family, listen and enjoy their enthusiasm.

2)    Never interrogate the kids about the specifics of their dad’s life, his girlfriend or new wife, or anything else which might make the kids feel uncomfortable. Even if it doesn’t seem to make them uncomfortable, asking a lot of personal questions is still poor form and puts them in the middle.

3)    If there is a woman in your ex-spouse’s life and she is nice to your kids, keep any negative thoughts about her and/or your ex to yourself.  Remember your kids cannot have too many people who care about them.

4)    Accept the fact that even if your ex in-laws no longer treat you like family, they are part of your kids’ life.  Kids do best when they feel they belong to both of their parents’ families.  Encourage those relationships and again, appreciate that these are people who care about and love your kids.

5)    Do not try to micro-manage or control your kids’ time with their dad.  Even if you would do everything differently, it is not your job to try to “improve” plans or activities your kids are doing with their dad.  Obviously, if there are safety concerns, you should talk with your ex about them.  Otherwise, let your kids have their time with their dad and trust that they can figure out how to deal with any bumps in the road.  It is important to appreciate that eventually, all kids need to make peace with who their parents are.  Summer with dad may help in this process.

6)    Find an easy way to stay in touch with the kids while they are away. For example, you might set up a designated time with your ex during which you can talk with the kids on the phone. Depending on the ages and needs of the kids, it might be a daily good night call or a weekly chat.  Texting might be preferable for some older kids.

7)    Appreciate that age plays a huge role in how much your kids might want or need to interface with you when they are away.  Usually, small kids miss mom and need encouragement and support.  Sometimes, sending them on their vacation with a recording of your voice reading them a bed time story is very helpful.  Photos of you, siblings, friends and the pets can also help.  On the other hand, teens might not be interested in or seem to need much contact.  Don’t take it personally.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care.  It means they are becoming independent and acting developmentally appropriate.  Good for them!

May following these suggestions make it easier for you to see your kids go on summer vacation with their dad.   And may you enjoy the extra time to yourself!

Action step:  Consider your biggest concern about your kids being away with their dad.  Look at the feelings underneath.  Remember these are your feelings and in the end you, not your ex, nor your kids, are responsible for your coping with or resolving them.  Write in your journal, talk with a friend or some other helpful person (your coach) about strategies to help you cope.  One simple way is letting yourself feel your feelings and reminding yourself that this is your kids’ journey, not yours, and that they will be fine.

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