Summer vacation has arrived in full swing, and with it trips to the beach, hanging out at the pool, and fun in the summer sun. For some kids with divorced parents – it also may mean a trip to stay with their other parent for an extended period of time. While this is becoming more and more common, it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens in our own lives. There are several issues that can cause anxiety – but addressing those situations head-on, along with a little planning, can make everything go much more smoothly.
Communicate With Your Ex
The most important thing you can do is have open communication with your ex, even if it means involving a counselor or mediator. Talk beforehand about the schedule, agree on specific rules and activities, have a plan in place for emergencies and agree to keep in contact throughout the summer.
Agree on a schedule first and foremost. Set the dates and stick to them. If the situation is particularly contentious, put the schedule in writing (unless it is being determined in court). If your child(ren) will be going to summer camp or taking lessons, talk about this too to make sure all of the details (payment, pick-up/drop-off, etc…) are worked out.
Anyone has a hard time being away from what they are used to so, chances are, you child will go through a period of adjustment when they are with their other parent. This does not necessarily mean that the child is unhappy or that they need rescuing. They likely need time to settle in. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly and let the child and their other parent work through their own issues.
Also, don’t feel hurt or insulted if your child misses their other parent while they are spending time with you. Acknowledge that splitting their time between the two homes can be difficult and then focus on making the most of your time together.
Make Travel Safer
Children as young as five years old are regularly flying alone. In addition to the regular risks to any traveler, kids on their own might face unique challenges (using the restroom in a crowded airport, for example).
Probably the most important thing is to make sure that you have verified that your child will have an escort (if need be) through the airline and that someone will be waiting for them when they arrive at their destination. Make sure your ex has your child’s flight information and that they will plan to be early getting to the airport. Give the child as much information as possible about where to look for the person picking them up. Children should also be instructed not to leave the area and to alert the airline/airport security if they are lost.
Prepare your child for the flight as much as possible. Explain things like turbulence and the rules about seat belts so that they are not surprised and/or frightened during the trip. Provide them with a cell phone, contact information and a small amount of money so that they have these tools in an emergency. Also, it is very important to go over appropriate behavior with your child. They may not realize that certain topics can make other travelers (or flight crew) uncomfortable, therefore, it’s a good idea to have this discussion. At the same time, you and your child should also talk about the possibly inappropriate behavior of others including other passengers and those performing “pat downs” at the security checkpoint. Let them know how to alert the proper authorities if they feel endangered in any way.
It’s definitely not easy to share custody and send your child away for the summer but, with a little preparation and a lot of communication, the transition will be smoother for everyone involved – even you!