How to Help Your Child Adjust After Returning Home from Summer Vacation
Some adjustment period will be needed for many kids who return home from extended time away. Follow these tips.
For those divorced parents who are ordered to share some type of visitation arrangement over the summer with their child(ren), there are always disruptions and potential issues that arise—ones that need to be dealt with during the back-and-forth transitions. For those children who spend the entire summer vacation with "the other parent" (because, perhaps, one parent lives on the other side of the country) the child(ren’s) return to the primary parent’s residence can be stressful, confusing, and depressing.
As a Certified Family Law Specialist, and former therapist who holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology, I offer six absolutes to put into play to help the "returning" child make a smooth and comfortable transition back home to his/her primary residence.
Welcome your child home with open arms, and lots of undivided attention. Let them know you can’t wait to hear all about their vacation! Urge them to share all they did while away, but without grilling them about the details they may not want to share. Curb your urge to check your phone or computer during this conversation. Focus entirely on your child’s narrative letting him/her know you are keenly interested in all they engaged in over the summer. Reinforce how glad you are that he/she/they had the time they did with your ex.
Don’t make the child feel torn. Remind him or her you will continue to foster good relations with your ex to facilitate each desired visit (in addition to summer vacations). Invite your child to discuss a more flexible visitation schedule if they are suddenly "homesick" for the other parent; let him or her know you will fully support more time with your ex if that is what he or she indicates he/she/they want. Promote Facetime, Skype or any other immediate connection they can make good use of as they ease back into your household and detach from that of your ex’s.
Get back into your regular routine quickly. You can schedule specific big and small activities with the kid(s) from the minute they walk back in the door—like everything from shopping for school clothes or supplies, to purposely staging your family’s yearly picnic. In other words, keep them busy and active. This will keep your child from dwelling on, or pining for, the parent they just bid "goodbye for now" to.
Don’t let any of your negative feelings show (like jealousy). Nothing can make your child feel guiltier than when you display hurt, anger or jealously when they return home. As you listen to them share their summer experiences, keep your feelings in check. Sure, you’re entitled to them, but your child already carries a significant amount of sadness and distress because of the divorce.
Make arrangements for your child—especially those over the age of three—to hang out immediately with their friends. They need the support of others, not just you, to make a comfortable re-entry into his/her "other life."
Seek counseling if your child display's any symptoms of depression. While some children re-adjust easily and readily, others don’t. If your child seems prone to isolation, sleeps a lot, eats too little or too much; it’s time to reach out to the family therapist or child’s personal counselor for help. Don’t ignore any signs of dejection. Don’t let your child go without the help he or she may need.
David J. Glass is uniquely qualified to handle complex family law matters because he is one of a few select attorneys who is dually-trained in law and clinical psychology (PhD). He offers his clients an “inside look” at, and understanding of, the procedures employed by court-appointed mental health and psychological professionals, in addition to handling the full range of family law matters. Prior to his law career, Glass worked as a therapist treating adults with anxiety disorders, mood disorders and drug & alcohol addictions, and worked in a psychiatric emergency room. Glass is best known for handling A-list celebrities and was highly-lauded for his work on the Kelly Rutherford custody issue in its early stages. Glass has appeared on NBC’s Extra and Good Day L.A. as well as serving as a guest on KABC Radio’s Real Estate Zone, The Ed Tyll Show on Starcom Radio,WMT Radio, and “David and Friends” on WYTM radio. A regular columnist and contributor to "Divorce" magazine and Hitchedmag.com, Glass is currently working on a book, "Moving On," a tome geared to help divorcees and their families reconstruct their lives after divorce.