Normally summer is the time when the divorce industry slows and practically screeches to a halt. Attorneys and judges plan longer vacations during the summer because as a rule, most families contemplating a divorce tend to put things on hold during the summer while the children are around and not occupied with their regular activities and lives. At first glance, this seems like a smart idea. But when a little more thought is put into it – summer is the perfect time to address divorce issues with your spouse and children.
School is out, the extra-curricular activities are over for the year and everyone is looking forward to a slower schedule during the summer months. For many families, the children attend an assortment of summer camps or take trips to see grandparents or cousins who live far away. Many families plan vacations during the summer or parents will take time off to spend a day at the beach or to have a staycation.
So why is summer a good time to talk about divorce? For starters, many children attend sleep away camp during the summer – whether it is for several weeks at a time or for a week-long specialty camp. The best time to tell your spouse you are thinking about a divorce is while the children are away. Every person reacts differently to the news that their spouse is thinking about leaving the marriage. If this conversation happens while the children are away, each person has the ability to talk without worrying if the children will overhear what is being discussed or to have an emotional response without worrying how it will affect the children. This is a good time to have a lengthy discussion that goes late into the evening and resumes in the morning. It is also a good time to really focus on yourself. With the children away, this is easier to accomplish. If you are the one who wants to leave the marriage, you may need to have patience with your counter-part. This may be completely out of left field for your spouse and he or she may need a few days to process your request before you can have any discussion. He or she may even want to consult with a divorce attorney before having any further discussions with you about how to handle the divorce.
It is always in the best interests of the children that they are not caught in the middle of the divorce. You and your spouse can discuss and work out important details before the children return. For example, you and your spouse can decide when and how to tell the children that the divorce is happening. This is something that should be done together and without blaming either spouse. If you and your spouse present a united front about the divorce and reassure the children that you love them and that the divorce is not their fault, they will handle the change in the family structure much better than if you and your spouse play the blame game and force the children to pick sides. You may even consider having a session with a therapist to help you determine what and how to tell the children about the divorce and how much detail is appropriate for each child’s age. Older children will ask questions and demand more information, but it is not necessarily appropriate to give in to them. They are still children and need to be shielded from the marital problems.
Determining who will stay in the home and who will move out is another decision that can be made prior to the return of the children. You and your spouse can even begin setting up the second home so the children have a room in both homes with pictures of both parents in each room and items they are familiar with and love in each home. This will take some thought and planning, depending on the age of your children. Moving a teen-aged child’s private belongings may cause problems and the decision may be for that child to determine what items will go in each home. For younger children, this can be easier and you may want to duplicate items in both homes if the child is particularly attached to something special, or use the same decorating theme to ease the transition.
When your children return from summer camp or travel away, you will want to tell them and give them time to process the news before school resumes and activities kick in to high gear. Talking to them during the summer will allow them to process without the pressure of attending activities, taking tests or doing homework. You and your spouse may decide that your children would benefit from speaking to a therapist. Commencing therapy during the summer when children have more time, may be the best way to help your children process the divorce. Most importantly, children will need extra reassurance and love after they have been informed of a divorce. Slower schedules during the summer allow for both you and your spouse to take extra time with each child as he or she needs it.
Another issue to consider, is what time will the children spend with each parent? They will need substantial time with both parents during this transition. The first time they sleep at the new residence is best done during the summer. They need time to adjust and get comfortable in their new environment. This is not the time for either parent to introduce a new romantic partner. This is the time to allow the children to adjust to their new living arrangement and to become familiar with new neighborhood friends before school commences in the fall. If your children will be starting a new school because of the divorce and the move of one parent, you will want to help them acclimate to the new school and neighborhood before the first day of school.
Lastly, summer is a great time to make sure you get the rest and help you need. If you are considering therapy, summer is a good time to begin working that into your schedule before the new school year begins and brings with it extra-curricular activities, holidays and other obligations that make the year fly by quickly. It is also a time to take a day or two and just check in with yourself and evaluate what you really want from your divorce. How do you wish to treat yourself and your spouse during this transition? What is the desired outcome for your children? Taking time to evaluate these answers and how to best go about it will help you choose the correct path for yourself and your children.