No matter the ages of your kids, or your specific circumstances, summer brings special challenges for divorced moms. From having more people in the house, with the plethora of moods and demands on your time and energy, to finding activities for the kids while you work, to handling the increased costs of food, utilities, and childcare, it’s easy to let summer slip by in stress, resentment and guilt. I’ve put together 6 tips to help with the adjustment so you can enjoy summer with your kids.
I introduced the tips and described tip #1 in my first blog post on this topic. This post addresses tip #2:
Accept your kids’ growing independence and the changes that means for your relationships.
Parenting children as they grow and navigating the changes in your relationship over time is tough. Just when you think you’ve figured out something that works, they change, and it’s time to adapt again. A college graduate doesn’t need as much support, guidance, and caretaking as an elementary school student, or even a high school kid. Age, gender and personality all play a part as well.
And if you’re parenting multiple kids of different ages, that adds another dimension to the challenge, especially over the summer when schedules are in flux. Not only do you need to determine what’s acceptable for each child at each age, but you also need to deal with the fallout when an older child is able to stay out later or have more independence than a younger one. Or conversely, when an older child reminds you that when she was the age of the younger sibling, you didn’t let her stay out till midnight or see R rated movies.
When college students return home for the summer, or if young adults move back, it’s normal for divorced moms to treat them as they used to when they last lived at home full-time. And it’s often tempting for the kids to allow this, as well. My daughter used to come home on breaks and marvel at the “magic” refrigerator—the one where the food magically appeared without her having to go to the grocery store to restock. My son still talks about much better my cooking is than what he gets in the school cafeteria, and uses that to sweet talk me into making him breakfast most mornings.
Of course, the kids will appreciate some things you do (laundry, cooking, shopping), but they may resent your desire to know where they’re going or when they’ll be back since they’ve been used to keeping their own hours and not having to answer to anyone but themselves.
If you’ve been used to doing for your kids or reminding them about school work, they may not need that anymore, or it may be time for you to let that behavior go and allow them to take more responsibility. For example, when I asked my college-age son (for the second time) whether he had started his summer school online courses, he reminded me that he had a 4.0 GPA last semester, and he was capable of getting the work done. He was right, I didn’t need to nag him; it was just an old (bad) habit.
It’s hard sometimes to let go of the things we do for our kids because they make us feel good about being a mom, or because we don’t want to change the relationship and risk losing their love. But as they grow, they need to become more independent, and summer is a good time for all of us to practice what that looks like. Accepting the changes and adjusting to how things are in the present helps the summer go more smoothly and enjoyably for all. The kids will still love you, even if it doesn’t feel that way as you navigate the necessary relationship changes.