by Brette Sember
Many children spend large chunks of time with their non-custodial parent over the summer. Whether your child is going across town to spend a few weeks with your ex, traveling to another state for visitation, or is packing up to go away on a big trip with your ex, preparing for and adjusting to the absence can be very difficult. Here are some tips to make the separation more comfortable for you both.
When your child is preparing to go away, do some advance planning that will help you feel comfortable with the vacation or the trip. Find out where your child is going and get the contact information. Ask questions so you know what the plan is. If your child will be traveling, get the details of the itinerary. Make sure your ex understands your child's capabilities when it comes to swimming, hiking, or other activities. If your child is going to another state to stay with your ex, find out who will provide child care while your ex is at work.
If your child is in elementary school, this might be a good time to get him a cell phone. That way, you can reach him directly without having to go through your ex and you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you can call at any time. Stay in touch, but don't call several times a day. You have to let go a little and let your child and ex have time together without you involved. Find out if your child will have internet access. If so, set up an IM account so you can reach each other that way. If not, you could send your child with some stamps and stationery so he could send you a note or a drawing.
Help your child pack for the time away. Make sure all essentials are included, including prescription medications, glasses, retainers, rubber bands for braces, summer reading requirements, sunscreen, special stuffed animals, favorite toys, clothing appropriate for the weather, and personal care items. If your child will be traveling, don't assume your ex will think to pack children's pain reliever, dental floss, water shoes, or other important items. Talk with your ex about making sure your child follows her routine and takes her meds, brushes her teeth, wears sunscreen, and so on.
Depending on the age of your child and whether he has been away from you before, this could be a difficult separation. Remind him he is going to be with the other parent who loves him and is so excited to be able to spend time with him. Tell him you'll miss him and he'll miss you, but you'll be together again very soon. Do not dwell on how hard the separation will be for you. That is not your child's burden to carry. Instead, give him permission to enjoy himself and have fun. Be happy he is about to have this experience.
If you have not been away from your child for extended periods of time, the time apart in the summer can be difficult for you to adjust to. Think ahead about how you will use your time. This is a great chance to tackle some big projects around the house or at work. It's also a great time to do something for yourself, like a wine tasting class, audition for a play, or do some traveling of your own. You will miss your child, but you may find you enjoy the time to yourself as well.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of: