When you are dealing with divorce, sharing your parenting time can be a frustrating experience. While you are trying to overcome those hurdles, you now have to deal with sending your children away to summer camp. While you may be happy for them and even secretly relishing the downtime for the summer, you may also miss them terribly and/or you may be worried about their mental well-being while they are spending time away from you.
No matter how contentious your co-parenting relationship, remember that summer time and camp experiences provide an opportunity for your child to decompress. You should do everything in your power to support your child during their time away because it may be the only safe space that they have to relax and rejuvenate before returning to the “co-parenting grind.” I encourage my clients to send their child off to camp with a KISS as they prepare for their summer.
Takeaway Tip #1: Keep in touch, but don’t overwhelm. Most camps will give parents direction on the appropriate amount and frequency of communication. If you already have a relationship with the camp, it would not hurt to let them know what your child has been experiencing, as they may be able to support them and keep an eye on them while they are at camp. Remember that they will be busy having fun and spending time with friends, so if they do not respond to emails right away do not take it personally. Short check-in emails or little gift boxes of fun goodies can put a smile on their face. Also, if work schedules allow, make the time to attend their end of camp performance or exhibition games. That attention can make all the difference as they prepare to return home.
Takeaway Tip #2: Insist that your kids get to be children. Sometime divorce can “force ripen” our children because they have to be there for siblings, or you over share your adult problems. If your divorce has been or continues to be challenging, camp can provide a respite and escape from all the drama to which your children have been exposed. It is important to keep in mind that the stress of divorce can also take a toll on their minds and bodies. Do everything you can to give them the space to rejuvenate and connect with their friends. If you and your spouse are in divorce proceedings, or arguing over issues such as parenting time, keep it away from their camp life. Make sure that the pick up and drop-off plans have been agreed to in advance, and if you and your spouse/ex can’t do it together then stick to your allotted time to interact with your child. Leave the anger and contention at home and allow them to have fun playing, creating, and enjoying their summer.
Takeaway Tip #3: Select a safe word or phrase. If your divorce or parenting dynamic is extremely high-conflict, your child may be in distress. If they have been struggling at home prior to camp it is important that you alert the camp staff so that they can reach out to you to determine how to support your child. If your child is crying every night, isolating themselves from friends, not willing to engage in camp activities, or not eating, these are potential signs that they are struggling with coping and may need extra support. If the camp team reaches out to you it is important to have a plan in place to address this. Most importantly, if your child has been resistant to attend camp, you need to create a safe word or phrase. If they are really struggling and at their breaking point and need to come home, it will be very clear to you when they use your agreed upon phrase, and you can effectively advocate for their mental well-being.
Takeaway Tip #4: Show them that you can have a good time as well. If your child is adjusting and looking forward to camp it is important that you show them that you have a life as well. They do not need to know that you are going to court or dealing with the other challenges of life. Children worry about their single parents during divorce as well. When they know that you have your own plans to travel, take a class, spend time with family or friends, or for other fun, they can breathe a sigh of relief that you are also making the most of your summertime break. You are also modeling resilience for them. As I tell my clients: “When powering through adversity, you need rest and recovery!” Make sure that as you give your children that precious gift of rest and recovery, you are giving it to yourself as well. Wishing you a happy and fun summer break!
If you are contemplating divorce, or struggling with a high-conflict divorce procedure, let Tamara Harris, CEO of Tamara Harris LLC, be your partner as you navigate through each stage of your journey. As an impartial, experienced professional, Tamara will work directly with you to give you the best tools and strategies to manage the specific challenges and uncertainties of divorce. Serving as your Divorce Coach and advocate, she will help you see clearly during this time where emotions can often impede and derail your divorce procedure. While each member of your high-conflict divorce team – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other experts – will be advising you, Tamara will help you to synthesize this information, think strategically about the options you have with clarity and purpose, and get your divorce across the finish line. Visit tamaraharris.com for more information, or contact Tamara Harris to discuss becoming a client. All inquires will be held in confidence.