During the school year it can be difficult enough for single parents to keep
kids cared for and out of trouble, but when summer arrives and school
activities are no longer available, the challenge becomes even more
complicated. Many single parents are left with the dilemma of being happy
about extra time with their children but also the concern about what to do
with them while they are at work. The following are some practical tips to
assist single parents during those long three months:
Let kids help in finding solutions. Give your child the opportunity to
contribute when plans are being made for the out-of-school months. Model and
let them participate in problem solving skills. Write down all possible
solutions (theirs too) and write the pros and cons of each. Children cope
better with complicated scheduling if they feel they have had some input. Let
them help in writing out a schedule.
Make sure young children have fun, interesting people to spend time with.
Grandparents or an aunt or uncle who really love kids can be a treat for your
child; a parent of one of their friends can provide peer interaction as well
as adult supervision. Summer school teachers or camp counselors can also
contribute positive interactions to your children.
Find organizations that have activities during the summer, such as
community Parks and Recreation Centers, camps, churches or temples,
university programs for children, YMCA camps, health club day camps, etc.
Groups that are accustomed to planning summer activities for children can
help make your summer go more smoothly, and provide fun memories for your
If children will be spending part of the time home alone:
Make sure you feel comfortable with leaving your child alone. There are no
hard and fast rules about at what age it is OK to leave a child alone. Some
children are mature enough to spend some time alone at age 9, others may be
very impulsive and high energy and need constant supervision until their teen
years. Some children are safe to leave alone but in the company of siblings
can become combative or less inhibited about breaking rules. Pay attention to
your comfort level. Ask your child how he or she feels. Ask what their
concerns are and how these might be addressed. Talk with friends who have
children near the ages of yours.
Walk them through what to do in case of emergencies or times they might
feel scared or unsure of what to do. Ask them specific questions such as,
"What would be the first thing you would you do in case of fire?" "What
would you do if a stranger came to the door?" etc.
Leave a number where you can be reached. Instruct them how to use it (how
to dial in a pager number or reach your extension, etc.) Allow kids the
freedom to call their other parent when they want.
Give older children tools to help them cope with peer pressure
(interesting organizations where they can volunteer, help role-play what they
might say if one of their friends calls and wants to come over to the house
while you are away, even drug testing if this has been a problem in the
Leave kids a list of possible food choices for snacks or lunch. Children
are more likely to choose healthier foods if there is a list posted.
Make a list of possible activities. When faced with boredom children often
have difficulty being creative and thinking up new activities. Spark their
creativity with a list. Check out books and tapes from the library, or video
rentals. Help kids set up babysitting jobs, car washes or a dress-up box for
younger kids to put on "plays" for you. Have safe art supplies on hand so
they can be creative. (Be supportive even if they are making a gift for their
Create a list of incentives for helping out with specific chores or
helping out around the house. Make sure you follow through with what you
promise when they help out. Motivating kids with "carrots" always works
better than the threat of punishment.
Set aside time to spend with each child individually so that they have the
opportunity to process their feelings and thoughts with you without the
interruptions of siblings. Each child needs to feel important and special.
Individual time with each of them alone (going for dessert after dinner, to
the park to feed ducks, etc.) can help accomplish this.
Help your children write or draw pictures of three things they felt good
about at the end of each day. Sometimes the summer can pass by so quickly
that children forget their accomplishments or the fun activities they
participated in. Writing a short list of accomplishments at the end of each day can help a child learn a habit that will provide them with good self-esteem for the rest of their lives. This will
also provide them with a positive record of their summer.
Give your child something to look forward to. Having some fun time with
you, a vacation or special event to look forward to, can help a child get through
the time when you have to take care of other responsibilities.
Even if the situation during the summer cannot be changed, make sure that
you are open to hearing your child's feelings. After you and your child have
discussed all possible scheduling ideas, and plans are made for the summer, be sure to
give your child the opportunity to express how he or she feels about the
situation. And even if there appear no other solutions than the ones you have
found acknowledge your child's feelings about the situation. Children need to
feel that the adults who love them understand when they are feeling sad or disappointed or even angry. Accepting your child's feelings can help the difficult times go more smoothly.
Be good to yourself so you have energy for your children. Make sure to
take some time for yourself this summer. Even taking a few minutes alone
after work before you start with the evening activities can help "change
gears" so that you have more patience and can enjoy this extra time with your
Joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and other factors that include 1) the preference of the child, 2) the desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving relationship between the child and the other parent, 3) the child's health, safety and welfare, the nature and contact with both parents and 4) the history of alcohol and drug use. Marital misconduct may be considered.
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