Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls and Boys
Food For Thought
Summer Vacation Tips For Parents
As summer vacation approaches you may have a few more challenges as a single parent. Depending on how the custodial schedule changes for the summer, your child might be with the other parent for as much as 50% of the time. Your child could also be traveling with the other parent for as much as two weeks at a time. This might be the longest you have ever been separated from your child. Add to that the fact that since school is out, you are now in need of full time child care for the summer. There are a few things I have learned from my work with divorced families that I would like to pass along. Basically these are the areas that usually cause conflict between the two homes:
1. Travel. Its fun to go places with your child. Do not make this experience ugly for your child by not cooperating. If you are the one who is taking your child somewhere, always tell the other parent the time and date of the flight, where you will be staying and when you will return. Either stay in the same room with your child or stay in an adjoining room. Do not have your child stay in a room down the hall. If you are bringing a new significant other, for heaven's sake be discreet. Have your significant other sleep in a separate bed.
Give the other parent courtesy calls during the vacation. The first call should happen once you get where you are going. It can be brief but it should include the information that you have arrived and all is well. Your child should also be allowed to call mid-way through the vacation to discuss how things are going. Once you arrive home, your child should also call to say you have gotten back safely.
If you are the parent sending your child on vacation with the other parent try to make the separation easier for your child. Do not sob and carry on. Tell your child to enjoy him or herself. Do not constantly call your child while on vacation with the other parent. Let your child enjoy their vacation. Don't show up at the airport right before the flight to say you will miss your child. You are only hurting your child by acting this way.
2. Structure. It's important to have structure for your child during the summer. Kids need activities and supervision during the day. They should not be left home all day. Under the age of 12, kids should not be left to their own devices while you are at work. Find out what your kids want to do and sign them up. Lots of places have more affordable care. Also try your local recreation center in your community.
3. Make a chore list. There is no reason that your children can't help with the up-keep of the house during the summer. Make sure that chores are age appropriate and at your child's skill level.
4. Set rules. You should have expectations about when your children go to bed and get up. They need a curfew. You need to know where they are and with whom. If they are outside playing you should be a physical presence. Trade off with other parents around the block. This makes it safer for everyone. If you go swimming, do not make the mistake of assuming that someone is watching your child. Adults in groups sometimes assume someone else is doing it. Drowning is a silent death. Make sure that if you leave the pool area, you either assign someone you can trust to watch the kids, or you ask the kids to get out of the pool until you are there to watch them.
5. Summer school work. I think it's important for math and reading to continue over the summer. Go to a teachers supply store and get a grade appropriate workbook for the math review. Ask your child to do a few pages every other day. You can also get flashcards to help with basic math facts that they should know. Take them either to your local Barnes and Noble or to the library. They should read at least one book every other week. Read the book as well so you can discuss it with them.
If you can, discuss this summer plan with the other parent. It's so much better for your child if you are both united in your parenting plan. Make the summer calm and stress free by working together.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
Psychologist License PSY7828, California213 E City Place Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705