Tina tiptoed into 7-year-old Jack’s room, checking his toy-packing progress. He was leaving in two days to spend the summer with his dad—three states away. Jack sat on the edge of his lower bunk, hugging his teddy bear, tears running down his cheeks.
“Jack, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to leave you,” he replied, reaching for his mom. Tina sat down and drew him close.
“I know. But you’ll have fun with Dad and your stepmom. They love you, and they’re excited you’re coming.”
For kids, the thought of leaving one parent to visit the other one for the summer can be gut-wrenching. While not all kids face the same fears, a little preparation can ease the transition.
Validate his feelings. Is he worried about leaving friends here or making friends there? Does he want to go, yet doesn’t want to leave? Remind your child that it’s normal to experience mixed feelings.
Help your child understand how things might be different in the other home. Perhaps he will have a different bedtime, mealtimes and chores. Other rules may be different, too. He will need to be flexible. Let him know you understand that adjusting can be tough, but you also know he can do it.
Remind him that it may take a few days to adjust. Assure him it’s OK to feel unsettled at first. A little homesickness doesn’t mean he will be unhappy the whole summer. If the feeling persists, however, encourage him to discuss it with his other parent. And if anything (especially inappropriate behavior) causes him to feel uncomfortable, instruct him to tell you immediately.
Prepare your child for potentially difficult issues he may face in the other home. Discuss how your child could respond when a stepsibling accuses him of spoiling the summer or resents having to share a bathroom. Role-play specific scenarios, if necessary.
If the idea of packing off your child for the summer leaves you feeling discouraged, remember you can trust God to care for your child—and your heart. And then let your support system encourage you.