Now, before you hop a freighter for the islands, we have a few suggestions on how to survive the summertime custody swaps. Working with thousands of stepfamilies around the world, we’ve received some great tips from stepmoms and dads, and here we share them with you …
* If your kids do have to travel to visit Mom or Dad, don’t whine about it. Family ties are important to all children, but especially so for stepkids. After spending all year in a new home with new family members to adjust to, your kids probably will feel relieved to be back around familiar faces. Let them.
* One mother said that her feelings about her kids being gone for the summer could be summed up in one word: Hallelujah! At first she felt guilty about enjoying their absence, but, she says, she realized that they were having fun, so she might as well, too. Now, while she looks forward to their phone calls and their return, she plans special times just for her husband and herself.
* If kids come to visit you for the summer, don’t neglect them. Whether they are your own children, for whom your spouse has custody, or your stepkids, make them part of everything that goes on. They are not enemy spies from the ex. They are children hoping to have some enjoyment during a special time of the year, in a place that is not their home.
* Make a place for visiting stepkids to feel at home. Some families hardly provide a drawer for them, since they visit rarely. That’s shameful! They’re not pets dropped off on you for a kennel stay. They are children who are basically at the mercy of your courtesies.
* If you live in a small house and have little extra money, be creative. Save up and buy (or even borrow) some furniture – a bed, a chest of drawers – it doesn’t have to be a lot. The point is to make an effort just for them out of love.
* Wear thicker skin over the summer. If the pressures build, be careful that you don’t damage relationships you have to maintain throughout the rest of the year. Someone has to be the adult, it might as well be you. Even if no one else appreciates your strength, you can feel proud of yourself when the dust settles!
This topic is covered in more detail on our website in an expanded article: Summertime Blues! , and in our booklets, “12 Steps to Improving Your Stepfamily’s Communication,” “You’re Not My Dad!,” and “You’re Not My Mom!“
God bless y’all,
STEPcoach Bob Collins