Now that school is out and summer vacation is in full swing, this may mean family vacations for some or summer camp programs for others. For children of divorce, however, their summer vacation may also include spending time with the non-custodial parent to comply with the visitation requirements within the divorce decree of their parents. For these children, this time may cause a wide variety of emotions. Such emotions can range from elation to fear to total disappointment because the child may feel that the required visits impose upon their time. Recognizing that the child may be having mixed emotions about the visit will go a long way in helping to alleviate the stress and make the visits enjoyable for everyone.
With many children separated from non-custodial parents by geographical distance throughout the school year, children of divorce become, to some extent, unattached to that same non-custodial parent. As a result, when visiting a non-custodial parent during the summer months, it may take several days or weeks for the parent and child to re-connect and feel comfortable with the summer visitation experience.
Non-custodial parents who intend to spend time with their children for extended periods in the summer, should prepare well in advance. It is important to make arrangements at their place of employment to ensure that the parent has quality time with the child. While it may not be possible for the parent having summer vacation to take the whole vacation visitation off of work, it may be necessary to provide for appropriate summer activities and supervision for the child while the non-custodial parent is at work. Oftentimes, this requires the use of summer child care or short-term summer camp or the use of extended family caregivers. The non-custodial parent can help their child adjust to this arrangement by discussing this with the child in advance, and also familiarizing the child with the plan or schedule. Having the custodial parent as an ally in this process is invaluable. The non-custodial parent may need to work through feelings of anger and hurt, but summer vacation visitation provides an opportunity for uninterrupted blocks of time where quality parenting can take place. The non-custodial parent should take advantage of this time and look at it as a blessing. The non-custodial parent should never express negative feelings or comments to the child, with regard to the custodial parent, as this will tend to alienate the child from the other parent, or could backfire, leaving the child alienated from the commenting parent. There is no substitute for common sense when it comes to determining what to say to a child, but getting the advice of trained professionals can always help. The child’s therapists or doctors can provide some guidance, as can the custodial parent. If there are concerns that are legal in nature, a consultation with a family law attorney could be helpful.
As with any child visitation or child custody arrangements, continual involvement in a child’s life will help smooth the path and provide for the most optimal outcome when summer visitation arrives.