As published in The Florida Villager
Every year around this time I see my clients stressed out and sad because summer is here and that means having to experience time away from their kids while they are on vacation with the other parent. I get it, as I have been there myself, but I am also going to tell you if you approach the summer with a different attitude and a plan, it will end up being a great time for all. So, let’s get started.
First, pull out your Parenting Plan and look at what it says about uninterrupted parent time, camps and other summer issues. Second, there is the issue of two households. Communication between you and your ex is just as important as between you and your children. Try to work out the schedule that works best for the children so they can spend equal time with both parents while enjoying their summer. Depending on their ages, involve them in vacation and camp decisions as it’s about what is important for them. Take the time to listen to what they are saying and their feelings, especially if this is the first summer as a separated family.
If possible, plan out the entire summer so everyone knows what it will look like. If they are going to camp, you will have time to get whatever is needed for that specific camp. If you are not able to agree with your ex on activities that overlap on their time, you will have ample time to look at other options and/or make any necessary arrangements needed to accommodate the child’s schedule.
Next on the agenda is you. Being without your children during the summer when you have been used to having them is gut wrenching to think about, but times have changed and you need to change with them. The more you fight this change, the harder it will be, so acceptance and planning is key. This is a transition for everyone so give it some clear thought not based on raw emotion.
Have a plan in place as to what you will do during the times that the children are at your ex’s. Don’t wait until the front door shuts behind your children and you’re in tears to figure out what you are going to do. Now is the perfect time to pamper yourself and you can do it guilt-free, as you will not feel like you are taking time away from your children. On another note, you can’t stifle your emotions either but don’t show your tears in front of the children. Let them enjoy the summer and their vacation time with your ex without feeling guilty for it. Prepare yourself to hear about their vacation and to see all the pictures and be grateful that they want to share it with you. You need to remind yourself that their life will continue with both parents and you will not always be included and that is ok. Keep smiling as you pour yourself a glass of wine.
Be in the present moment. Do not allow your mind to wander to past summers or what was. Be in the moment and find something to be grateful for in that moment. Don’t focus on the fact that you are alone or that your children are at your ex’s. Focus on what you have planned out for yourself, the time you have with your children and knowing that your children are spending their time away from school having fun and being excited about having time with both you.