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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Suggestions for the Single Parent in Summer


Where I live, school is out and the kids are now on summer vacation.  Those of you whose schools go year ‘round, will have a break or two, but it isn’t the same as that wonderful, long stretch of time called “summer vacation.”  

Vacations can be radically different when you are freshly divorced.  Instead of having your life partner to share the planning and the fun, it is up t you to make it happen.  Finance settlements may have impacted your options.  Your schedule is no longer your own, but has to be coordinated around that of your ex’s.  In fact, you may even not feel much like even bothering this year, overwhelmed by depression or loneliness.

On the other hand, you may be feeling a great exuberance, freed from the constraints of your unhealthy marriage, now you can do whatever you want with whomever you want.  You may even be thinking about jumping into another relationship and including that individual in your vacation plans.

I would like to share a bit of advice.  If this is your first summer vacation after divorce, and you are making plans for you and your children, it is important to recognize the struggles your child may be experiencing.  The child may not want to go without the other parent, or complain that it just isn’t the same.  Or the child may demand all sorts of activities that are outside the scope of your altered financial options.  Still others, especially those with limited time with their children, may choose to go all out in an effort to impress their children, to win them over from the ex, or to create a “win” as if it is some kind of competition.  It can get pretty complicated, pretty fast.  

Apart from special vacation trips, summer vacation for kids means things like playing ball, going swimming, fishing, summer camp and just hanging out with friends.  Make sure they know you are supportive of their participation on a ball team by showing up for the games.  Making sure they have opportunities to swim or fish, with friends or with you, can be a simple way to provide security and support.  Take time to think back to your own special memories of summer vacation, and then find ways to update them to match the personalities of your children this summer.

The most important thing to remember is that your children have also entered a new world…their home has drastically altered, and they will long for some kind of stability.  They will likely be grieving and struggling, and need some joyful memories.  In addition, your own emotions may color the whole experience, and you may need to do some self-care in order to appropriately parent your children this summer.  

Therefore, I would suggest the following:
  1. Be true to who you are.  Don’t be making radical changes in this context, and yet, use the opportunity to help your children gain a fresh understanding of the person you are, and what they can count on from you.
  1. Keep it within the family.  The children need time to grieve, and they need to know they are important to you.  Don’t inflict a new person on them until a significant amount of time has passed, and they have made some of the necessary adjustments.
  1. Focus on creating special memories for your children…not extravagant things,  but things that are meaningful for them that will also develop your bond with one another in this tough time.
  1. Find a way to spread some joyful times throughout the summer.  Perhaps a weekly picnic or movie, perhaps going back to a favorite location together, perhaps sharing a new experience together.  In my own life, I made a point to purchase some season tickets to activities that we enjoyed, so that there was already planned out for me some regular family time with my children that I knew would be things they would enjoy.
  1. Make some time for YOU to also have some positive experiences to create special memories.  Maybe you will go somewhere you have always wanted to go, maybe you will reclaim some activities that you enjoyed earlier in life but have not done for years, or maybe you will get involved in some small support group where you can make new friendships.

I guess I would sum this whole discussion up with a simple question:  When your children are grown, and look back on this first summer vacation after the divorce, what is it you would like them to remember about their time with YOU?  The answer to that question will shape what you do.  

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