Summertime — the season of family disruption

February 24, 2012

Children and Teens

If you are a noncustodial parent, it can be difficult to decide how to best arrange and spend time with your children over the summer.

by Dannette Ellenwood Hunnel — 

Today’s families are like puzzle pieces. Which one goes here; which one goes there? If you are a noncustodial parent, it can be difficult to decide how to best arrange and spend time with your children over the summer months. Like a Sudoku puzzle, these arrangements can lead to a fun and rewarding outcome or one that is challenging and frustrating.

How to master this game is the question. The determining factors should be about the children’s wants and needs, rather than what works best with your vacation time or the desires of extended family, such as grandparents.

Remember the lazy days of summer when you were a kid? For many of us it was all about staying up late, sleeping in, watching daytime TV, hanging out with friends, swimming, riding bikes, having sleepovers and heading off to summer camp. Now imagine all that taken away.

When your children come to visit, why tear them away from their comfort zone (primary residence) if only to leave them at your house with a sitter? Extended periods of visitation are particularly hard. You can probably recall what it feels like to be homesick. There is a period of adjustment for the children upon arrival, then readjustment upon returning home.

Short visits during the summer are much easier for children. Two or three weeks at the beginning of summer and perhaps another week or two before school resumes work very well. It keeps things fresh, fun and interesting.

Ideally, when your children come to your home, they should have someone to pal around with. A sports or summer program in your area is an excellent way for children to make friends. Planning a vacation near their place of residence or in another nearby state is fun, too. Alternatively, you can pick them up or make arrangements for them to meet you there.

More interaction and communication is engendered when you are active in all facets of their daily lives, combining both areas of their living arrangements.

Using this method, children can enjoy downtime at home and vacation time with you, as well as visits with their friends and other family members. It also leaves time for various camps, summer schools and/or a short seasonal sports activity.

When making summer visitation plans, be sure to take into account other children who may be affected — whether it be at your home or the children’s primary residence. The children’s visit can be difficult on siblings, step-siblings and even those children who get left behind.

Remember when making plans, start by asking your children what they think works best. You might be surprised at their creative suggestions.


Dannette Ellenwood Hunnel is the author of Shorten the Distance, a book focusing on long-distance parenting., or 602-418-0505.

Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 3, June/July 2011.

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