Are your kids going away for the summer, or part of the summer, to see their other parent? How can you make that time work for everyone? Staying in touch with the kids, but not being too intrusive; are you going to let the other mom/dad know what the kids are eating/reading/wearing now or let them figure it out as they go along?
It’s a balancing act. If your kids are going to be spending a few weeks with their other parent, or with grandparents, you will want to make a plan about telephone or Skype calls NOW.
You’ll want to talk to the other parent about reasonable communication, and that can mean accommodating a change of time zone, as well as vacation scheduling. Understanding when you can agree on days and times for calls. Younger kids may need to hear from their parents more, but the calls will be shorter; probably no more than ten minutes. Kids between 6 and 12 will probably be able to talk longer, with less frequency. Adolescents should be checking in with the home parent at least once a week; as you know, communication with teenagers can be difficult, but not impossible. Calling the other parent is not negotiable, and that should be made clear.
If your children are young, they may want to have stuffed animal or toy or blanket that will go on the trip with them. This is known as a transitional object, that is, something that goes with them from home to home, to connect the two homes and to make them feel safe. If your children are anxious about a trip, you can remind them that their toy will be with them, and to remember the good feelings they have with their toy.
Talking about naps and bedtime is important – even though school is out, children do better with routine and habit. Bedtime routines may vary from home to home, but to that the extent that bedtime can be the same at both homes, your children will thrive.
You may be doing the other parent a favor by letting them know what your kids are eating these days. On the other hand, kids often act differently in different homes, and this goes to food likes and dislikes too. Children should be encouraged to eat new foods, even if it’s just a bite. This is how we all learn what we like and don’t like to eat. If your kids are used to having a snack every day, they will probably want one while they’re away. And if certain foods are considered a “special treat” you can tell the other parent, but don’t be disappointed if treats at your house are regular food at the other parents’ home. If they don’t already know, your children will find out that everyone is different, that everyone has different habits and values.
Are the kids are reading books for homework this summer? That is important information to share. How long is the book? Should it be sent along? Is there a supply of books to read, or is there a library nearby. Reading nightly with parents is a way that children learn to read, and to love stories. When your children read to you, it’s a way for them to bond, as they share knowledge with you.
Other ways to stay in touch involve mailing postcards from your own vacation adventures, and packing pre-stamped cards for your children to send to you. It’s always nice to get news, and to know someone is thinking about you. The most important thing is to let your children know that you know they will have a great time, and that you will be happy to see them in a couple of weeks!