My son returned after his annual 8-week visit with my ex this past week. Watching him walk down the jet bridge, I could already tell he was taller and had gotten a healthy dose of sunshine.
I never quite know what to expect after such a long visit, but he greeted me with the usual smile and bear hug.
My boy was home.
After signing some papers for the airline, we were on our way. He had his carryon suitcase and began telling stories of fishing and fun.
Over the years, we have had variations on the “re-entry” after a stay with his mom. I suspect the same holds true for you.
This time, my son declared he does not get to see his mom enough. I told him I understood how he felt and reminded him he would be going back two more times this year…for fall break and for Christmas.
He thought a moment and smiled and said he was glad he would get to see her. And as quickly as he raised the subject, he was on to the next.
Like years past, we have been able to take a short trip immediately upon his return. Before I got remarried, we would typically go visit my family (including his two cousins – both boys one of whom is a year older and one a year younger). This year, we went with the blended family to Disneyland and Universal Studios for my son’s first visit ever to either.
So far, the transition has gone smoothly and he has adapted well to the old surroundings, stepbrothers, puppies, and rules. Here are some best guesses as to why it has gone relatively smoothly:
- I have consistently reminded him to contact his mom. While he needs to be reminded to call every once in a while, he also needs to know I believe it is important for him to maintain contact with her. This helps him understand the importance of regular contact…not just visitations.
- I do not ask 20 questions about his trip. As much as i would like to know every detail of his summer and how things are going with his mom, I give him the freedom to share what he wants to share and only ask general questions. When he wants to talk, I listen and ask normal follow up questions. I have found letting him share his summer stories at his pace works much better than quizzing.
- I try to keep everything normal. Consistency and familiarity seem to work best for my son. I suspect your kids would also respond well to coming home to normalcy. A few years ago, my son came home to a new rental home when we were subject to a burglary/arson. Trying to maintain normalcy when most of his toys, clothes and furniture were destroyed was a challenge and taught me the importance of routine and comfort in situations where things change.
What traditions or routines do you use when your kids return from an extended visitation with your ex?