Lots of parents choose to wait until the school year ends before calling it quits. Why? Because they don’t want to create any chaos in their children’s lives while they are in school and potentially risk a dip in their academic performance. While this makes perfect sense, there is one big problem that parents need to be aware of: during the school year, kids are surrounded by their friends and school counselors, who can all provide emotional support for them in a time of need. If parents are going to split during the summer, they need to make sure that their kids have sufficient emotional support to process what is happening as the family restructures and establishes a new norm.
Children generally crave consistency and stability, therefore, the best thing parents can do is create a shared narrative, and jointly reassure kids that:
(1) they will continue to see both parents;
(2) their lives will continue to be the same as much as possible; and
(3) the break-up is NOT their fault.
Kids don’t need to know all the details– they really just need to know how the separation will impact them, and parents need to work on filtering as much as possible. Picture yourself as a Brita filter– take that not so clean water, and try your best to purify it for your kids!
My final words of wisdom with respect to summer break-ups is to make sure to let kids have fun. Take them to the beach, amusement parks, etc. Stick with your traditions as much as possible. We need to show them through our actions, not just words, that it will all be okay. As Dr. Emery often says, children are resilient. Parents just need to model an appropriate attitude. Life is full of changes, and sometimes setbacks. Showing your kids how to handle adversity is one of the best life skills you can pass down to them– and if you need help, that’s fine– that is why experts in this field exist. We can help you through it, so you don’t have to face this by yourself.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.