When you had children, you probably never thought of them being away from you for longer than a middle school summer camp would last, at least until they went off to college, right? Then you got divorced and the judge ordered shared placement. Whether your placement schedule is 50/50 or you have something different, sending your children off to live somewhere else, even with their Dad, is difficult! Now that summer is here, many Moms are getting ready to send their children off to Dad's for a longer time period, not to mention vacation schedules that send also send your kids off to live with Dad for longer than you want to be away from them. I know - I've been there! Though we will never like it when our kids are gone, we can manage it. These are my tips for managing the emotions that come with your kids living at their other home:
- Set up a communication plan. Just because your children are gone doesn't mean you go without speaking or even seeing each other's faces! In today's day and age, technology allows for things like FaceTime or Skype, and kids love to text. You don't have to wait for a letter to come in the mail before you have contact with your child. Just as your child wants to talk to Dad when they're with you, they'll want to talk to you when they're with Dad. If you don't co-parent in any other way, remember this one, communication between kids and both sets of parents is very important.
- Make your own plans! Binge watch the trashiest show on Netflix you can think of. Call the girls over for a wine tasting. Go out dancing until 1a.m. Think about all the things you couldn't do when the kids were home and do them now! Being a Mom doesn't mean you give up your life, it just means your outside life sometimes takes a backseat. It's now time to put that life back in the driver's seat and make some memories.
- Let go. No, Dad probably isn't going to be running his house the way you run yours, but that's not a bad thing. If Dad lets them stay up until 10 PM whereas you would be putting the kids to bed at 9:30 PM, it's not the end of the world. If he serves one fruit or vegetable at dinner instead of two, again, it's not the end of the world. It's actually good for children to see two different ways of living. Each of you as parents have different strengths. You will each teach your children something different in life. One lesson isn't bigger or better than the other lesson, they're just different. Generally speaking, the balance and differences are good for the kids to see.
- Find an outlet. You're going to have negative thoughts. You're going to hear stories from your kids that will make you want to jump out of your skin. Dad isn't going to do things the way you do, but as we found out, that's okay! It doesn't mean you aren't frustrated, though. It means you need a way to let those feelings out. Start a journal, take up yoga, call your friends for a venting session, or simply go for a brisk walk. Get the frustration out in a healthier way than taking it out on your ex.
- Embrace his role in their lives. Many Moms would dream of having their ex take on an active parenting role. If you have that, consider yourself a lucky one. As Moms, we tend to take on the weight of the world and want to control all of the parenting for the kids. But when you get divorced, you need to give up some of that. Studies consistently show that children grow up healthier overall if they are able to create their own relationships with their parents. You don't have to live in the same house in order for your children to grow up happy and healthy. You only have to let your children form their own relationships with each of you as their parents.
We will never be totally comfortable with our children gone, but it's good for them to be with both parents. If you're able to show your children that you love them, miss them, support them while at their Dad's and have a life outside of them, think about the lesson that teaches them long-term. Your children will see unconditional love and support for them as well as seeing your independence as a person.