Summer visitation can be complicated for kids, especially as they get older. While extended summer visits may have been a highlight when they were little, it can be hard for tweens and teens to break away from their friends and enter into a social scene that's unfamiliar to them or feels brand new.
(Because even if they're be hanging out with the same kids they see every summer, a lot of change happens during the school year ...
making the effort to reconnect with neighborhood kids feel an awful lot like work.)
To make the most of a longer summer visitation while still being sensitive to your kids' needs, try these tips:
- Enter into their routine. This may be a tough one for working parents, but teens' summer schedules are getting later and later. Try to pick one night a week when you can stay up late, too, and just spend time together.
- Maintain communication with the other parent. This tip is two-fold. You need to maintain contact with the other parent in order to relay schedules and other important details. But your kids need to maintain communication in order to continue to feel connected to their 'other lives.' Expecting them to check out completely, without the slightest twinge of curiosity or longing, is unrealistic. Instead, create opportunities for your tween or teen to stay in touch with the other parent during your time together—and let him or her know that that's more than okay with you.
- Plan fun outings. Summer visitation may be the longest chunk of time you have together all year. Take advantage of it! Take some time off of work to do something fun you'll both enjoy.
- Share responsibilities like chores. At the same time, it's important for your tween or teen to feel part of the household, so don't shy away from assigning chores and responsibilities.
- Take turns preparing each other's favorite meals. We all have our favorite foods. Take some time this summer to shares yours, and teach your tween or teen how to prepare it. Just be equally as willing to partake when he or she offers to cook a meal you've never heard of before .... This is what sharing your favorites is all about!
- Share your hobbies and interests. Similarly, be intentional about sharing the things you love to do, from listening to your favorite music artists to books that have helped shape who you and what you hope to pass on to your kids.
- Enjoy spontaneous activities. This time together is also a time for spontaneous summer fun. Whether it's riding bikes to the park or surprising the kids with a quick trip to their favorite ice cream shop, take the time to enjoy 'the little things' together.
- Make time for learning. Tweens and teens often have summer reading assignments and projects that need to be completed before school starts up again. While you don't need to help them do the work, be sure to help them carve out the time needed to put forth their best efforts.
- Make time to see extended family. Summer visitation also presents an ideal opportunity for the kids to spend time with your side of the family. Make sure you do your part to make that happen—long before it's time for the school year to start up again.
- Be patient. Finally, remember that relationships take time. Your connection with your kids may not feel comfortable or deep right away, and that's okay. Give yourselves time to adjust—especially if your kids are getting acquainted with a special someone or you've recently remarried and introduced step-siblings. These are big changes, and while summer visitation may be the ideal time to let these relationship grow, you'll want to make room for plenty of ups and downs along the way.