School is out and the kids are looking forward to their upcoming trip with your ex-spouse. You, on the other hand, are devastated. Maybe it’s about money – why can be take a huge trip while at the same time complain about paying you child support? Maybe you feel like she’s taking what little time you have with the kids each month away from you. Or maybe you’re just jealous – he gets to get away and have all the fun while you’re stuck at home working.
Don’t worry – these sorts of feelings are normal. The real concern now is how will you deal with them?
Keep your feelings to yourself –
I know you probably want to rant at your ex or your kids about how unfair the situation is, but it’s best to bit your tongue. You, as the co-parent, need to act supportive and a little enthusiastic about your kids’ upcoming trip even if you’re not really feeling that way inside. Kids are known to mirror parents’ attitude – if you’re upbeat and exciting about their trip, they will be too.
Plan something fun for you to do while they’re gone –
As they say, “When the owner is away, the cats will play.” As a single mom or dad with primary custody, you don’t get these sorts of opportunities that often. Sign up for a day-long class, go to the beach, or visit a place you have never been before. Even if you have to work, you can still spend your evenings with friends, shopping, or maybe even find someone to replace your ex.
Make sure he or she has all the needed documents and permission letters –
Traveling with your kids as a divorced parent can be “interesting” at times. Differed airlines, agencies, and countries require different documents, permission forms, and letters to allow a child to travel without both parents being present. Check and double check that your ex has all of the required items in his hands before he or she leaves.
Exchange itineraries and contact information –
As a parent, you have the right to know where your kids are at all times. That way, if you have an emergency, you can contact them. Also, if something happens at the locale where they are staying, you can assess quickly if they are okay or not.
Work out a contact schedule with ex –
Just because they’re with their dad or mom doesn’t mean you can’t have some sort of regular contact with them. Agree upon the best time for you to call your kids and make sure you keep to your promise, even if it’s just a quick hello.
Respect your ex’s time with your kids –
If you’re the primary caretaker of the kids, understand that your ex doesn’t have much time with your kids. So, do your ex and kids a favor and take a step back. Don’t helicopter-parent from afar – don’t call every day (unless that’s what you agree upon), don’t grill the kids when you do talk to them (Did you eat dinner? Did you eat your vegetables? Did you put on sunscreen?) Let him or her parent as they see fit. A week of donut breakfasts isn’t going to kill them.
Leave them off with a smile and a kiss, no tears –
Once again, it’s important that you reflect happiness and not sadness or fear at their departure day. Kids can pick up on your feelings, so it’s time to “man up” and put on that happy mask, even if you’re not feeling it inside.
Coping with the silence while they’re gone –
The moment you go home after dropping them off, close their bedroom door. Their bedrooms will only serve as a daily reminder that your kids are away. If the silence gets to you, turn on some music or even the TV. Also, now’s the time to do the dishes, vacuum the floor, and clean the bathroom – the housework will help you blow off the stress and apprehension you might be feeling over your kids traveling.
Keep busy but take time for yourself –
As mentioned before, now is the time to have some fun and do the things you love to do. Put your feet up and enjoy a bottle of wine while watching your favorite movie. Go out for coffee with friends. Start a garden. Drive to Mexico. Just do something!
When they return, don’t hammer them with too many questions –
There’s a fine line between asking the kids about their vacation and being nosy. Ask them how their vacation was and what they did. You might be surprise at what they volunteer. If they do reveal something that upsets you, don’t grill the kid about it, and most importantly, don’t attack your ex in front of the kids. Take him or her aside one day and ask quietly what happened. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that and walk away. Sometimes, what happens at Daddy’s house, should STAY at Daddy’s house.”