Summer is well under way and lots of kids are now traveling back and forth to spend time with their other parent. It’s not easy managing all the travel schedules, especially if you happen to have more than one stepchild and more than one biological parent to deal with. Also, siblings that don’t have the same parents find it difficult to stay in contact with each other over the summer months and may even be home sick for each other.
How do you console the children who have to say goodbye to each other during the summer or at other times of the year? How do you keep the long distance relationships alive? Here are a few suggestions to help you and the children keep that connection going and to create memories along the way:
- First, discuss scheduling with the other parent. Find a time that works for everyone to either do video Skype or Facebook chat. These are free services you can use to keep the kids in touch with one another. The purpose of this is so the kids get to “see” each other and keep their connection alive. Don’t overdo it and create more problems than you solve. This distracts the child from actually spending time with a parent they don’t get to see often and may cause resentment if one sibling is having fun and the other is not. The purpose here is just to stay connected and not detract from the visit.
- Do a photo montage of the children together in different activities and put it in a frame. The children can each have this picture of each other at their homes and look at it whenever they get lonely. They can create a little ritual at bedtime of saying goodnight to everyone. (Remember the Waltons? John Boy would always be the last person to say good night and even when he wasn’t there, the family would still say good night to him.)
- Buy a digital picture frame that allows you to upload a video message. This lets the child know you love them and wish them a great time with mom/dad. You don’t want your child to be miserable the entire time they are visiting their other parent. The best thing you could do for your child is to wish them a great time. Let them know that you and the other children will be OK at home and that you will look forward to seeing them when they come back. This prevents the children from feeling guilty about being away and having fun while everyone else is at home.
- Prepare a journal or a little scrap book for photos with room for the child to write notes about his/her time away, to share with the family when he/she comes back. Children often “forget” what they just did and when asked, their typical response is “nothing.” Try to encourage the other parent to help the child fill the scrapbook with little mementos so that the child will remember the good times long after they have passed.
- When the children all come together again, have an evening where everyone gets to share what their vacation/trip was like. Do a show and tell. Set a time limit or ask leading questions to keep a child on track if he might want to brag a little too much to siblings who had no grand adventure. What this sharing will do for a child will cement memories that will carry them for a very long time.
Sharing our life experiences with those who love us and care for us strengthens our family bonds. It also brings us closer to one another and creates trust and love. When children have a place to talk and share their feelings, they grow up knowing they can trust you, the parents. They don’t lie or cheat because you are willing to listen to what the children do in all areas of their lives, including at their other parents.
It also helps children to become more resilient in life, to know that sometimes we need to do things that we might not always enjoy or that are not always easy, but we know they are the right things to do.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer.
Claudette Chenevert also known as “The Stepmom Coach” provides advice, support and guidance to those women who are entering the “Instant Family” realm, feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood and isolated.
Claudette is a contributing writer for Xpanded Family Magazine and Diva ToolBox and co-authored a book “Celebrating Moms and Motherhood”. Claudette is an active participant on many Facebook groups and has her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/ClaudetteChenevert.StepmomCoach.
For more on how to transition from Surviving to THRIVING, one STEP at a time, go to http://www.stepmomcoach.com and sign up for the FREE audio “The 3 Biggest Mistakes Stepfamilies Make”