Kids and divorce: How to handle summer holidays

Summer holidays for children of divorce can bring up a multitude of emotions, and in turn, behaviors. By being aware and empathetic to how your child may be feeling you can help to alleviate some of their anxieties and help them to transition more easily through family change.

When tactile children are feeling stressed they are more likely to be physically aggressive. For little children, this can mean more pushing and grabbing and less sharing. They will fluctuate between pushing away their caregivers to demanding constant hugs and affection. Try to have special time with your tactile child: throwing a ball, going for a walk, or cuddling on the sofa watching a DVD. Use the time to connect and when they feel secure physically, start to talk about their concerns and worries. You will find that often these concerns will be around which parent they will be doing things with, whose place they will be staying at, and what group of people will be there to play with.

The silence from an auditory child may seem like bliss to a parent, but it often signifies a problem. When auditory children feel worried or stressed, and don’t feel supported, they will withdraw their voice. It’s important that you create a place where they can talk. Often starting an activity like Play-Doh, or threading beads, or just making something together, is a good way to start a conversation. Talk about the everyday things and let them open up about their concerns at their own pace. Be careful how you talk about the other parent, and remember that the conversations between adults may be overheard by your child.

Visual children will become more obsessive about their outfits and generally how things look. They may be worried that holidays are excluding rather than a family affair of summer fun. They may become upset about other people knowing that their family is separated and not wish to have friend over. Visual children will feel better if they are allowed to either bring things between their parents homes such as a favorite pillow, or teddy bear; or duplicates of main items so each bedroom in each home visually look similar. If possible, try to keep the family events friendly and inclusive. Create a photo album that has headings such as Summer Holidays 2015, which include both events at each parent’s home.

Taste and smell children become overly sensitive during uncertain times. Tears, over-reactions and extreme behavior are all normal for this sense when they feel stressed. They will be very concerned about others’ feelings, and the more concerned they are, the more their own feelings are hurting. It is natural for the taste and smell child to internalize outside events and feel they are responsible. They will feel empathy toward the parent they feel is being left out, so it’s important to have both parents show that life is fine and things will be OK. Rather than saying “Dad can’t come trick or treating,” try “Daddy is trick or treating in his neighborhood and saving candy for you.”

Often we are dealing with our own loss during separation and divorce, and concerns that may seem trivial to you, can mean a lot to your child. It’s important to remember the summer holidays are memory building times for your child, and we want to build happy memories.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language; www.