Posted on June 14, 2017 by Linda Jacobs
Summer months can become very sticky, messy, and complicated for mothers, fathers, and children in divorced families. Divorce decrees can mandate that when school is out, and the children visit the other parent for extended periods of time. They may stay several weeks or even all summer with the other parent. In places with year-round school, the children might stay with the other parent each track-out time.
Sometimes that means traveling to another city or a state halfway across the country. For some children, it might mean the visitation schedule allows the other parent to take them on extended vacations.
It can become stressful for children caught in the middle. If the parent the child lives with most of the year has lots of questions about the time away, the child might feel like he is reliving the initial separation all over again. While excited to be with the other parent, the child going away may be thinking about his friends and wondering if he will be missed.
Many issues abound in these situations. For example:
- The mom might want her time with her child, and she might want it uninterrupted with no phone calls or interaction with the dad.
- The mom gets worried about little things and wants to make sure her child is using his inhaler and taking his allergy medicine.
- The kid just wants to have fun and keep everyone happy.
We could play out a hundred different scenarios like these ones.
Here are a few situations
- A single mom contacted me when her ex took the kids to a water park out of state. The mom was okay with the water park, but what she wasn’t okay with was that the dad left one kid standing alone for half an hour while he went to wait in line to go down the huge water slide. The young, elementary-school-age child was left completely alone while the older brother and dad enjoyed the water park. The little girl was petrified someone would kidnap her. The little girl didn’t feel like she could talk to her dad, so she came home and told her mom.
- Another young dad is concerned about his three preschoolers when they visit their mom this summer. He said to me, “How do you trust someone with your children that you no longer trust as a spouse? You hope and pray your kids will be safe, but you wonder every minute they are gone if they are safe. You wonder if they are having a good time.” This dad also wonders if his little children miss him while they are at their mother’s.
- My son went to live with his dad for one summer. In August, when he came back home to live with me, he told me many days his dad took him to the local water park and left him standing outside the gate waiting for the park to open an hour later. My twelve-year-old son was at the water park by himself for more than nine hours on hot summer days. He said it was boring to be there alone all day. He didn’t want to tell me what was going on at the time because he wanted to live with his dad and didn’t want to disappoint his dad by coming back to my home.
- A single mom in my single-parent class is very worried about her kids going to Europe for two weeks with their dad and his girlfriend. They are young kids, and they will be going to several countries. She brought her concerns to our group, and we are praying intensely for her children’s safety. She has purchased an iPhone and will get it set up so her son can check in with her periodically from overseas. Her children have not been away from her for two weeks. The girlfriend hasn’t exactly been reliable here in the States. Mom has reason to worry.
It doesn’t make any difference if the concern is felt by the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent, the dad, the mom, or even the grandparent because they all hurt. Yet all parents deserve time with their children during the summer or school holidays.
Children suffer in silence
Many children suffer in silence because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. Like my son and the little girl left standing alone waiting for her dad to return, they keep silent rather than risk upsetting their parents.
What will you do?
As a person who works with children, think through how you might comfort one of the parents of the children in your group. How will you comfort the single parents left alone for the next two or three months as they worry about their children?
How will you comfort the child who is nervous but excited about visiting the other parent who lives out of town?
Pray, and be prepared with a couple Scriptures and words of comfort.
- “As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength.” Psalm 138:3
- “Let Your unfailing love comfort me, just as You promised me, Your servant.” Psalm 119:76
- “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10
- “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in robes of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10