Lessening the Summer Stress in Blended Families

There are two times of the year that are full of stress for blended families — holidays and summer. It might seem counterintuitive because these are two times associated with fun, no school and family activities. They’re also the times when the regular routine of the custody schedule changes up a bit.

For parents in blended families, this means that your summer calendar is already marked up when the kids are with you and when they’re with their other parents. Sometimes just getting to the point of having a calendar can be a chore, because you have to arrange family vacations not only around your own work schedule, but also around the commitments of the other biological parent.

Whether your young ones show it or not, the summer schedule can be stressful for everyone. If you see your child begin biting her nails, whining more than usual or acting out about everyday items, those could be signs that the upcoming change in the schedule is causing your child stress.

“Every child handles stress differently,” says Charlotte family therapist Anne Dickerson. “Use your judgment as a parent to know how far in advance to tell your kids about family vacations and time with their other parents. Children need to be told about the schedule ahead of time so they are not blindsided, but some only need a few days notice while others might need a month.”

Luckily there are ways to handle the summer schedule in a way that will make things fun for everyone.

• Clearly mark your calendar so that everyone in the family knows the schedule ahead of time.

•  Include your children in the planning as much as possible. “Invite the children’s questions and concerns so you can address them as they come up,” says Dickerson.

• Try to plan family trips and vacations when all of the children will be able to go.

• Utilize area day camps. You don’t have to rearrange your work schedule to fit the kids’ summer schedules. On weeks when your stepchildren are with you and you don’t have a vacation planned, sign them up for a local day camp. It’s a great way to keep them busy, and you’ll still have time for fun family activities in the evenings.

• With plenty of communication and careful planning, the different routine of summer will be just that, different, and not a dreaded time of stress and upheaval.

Karen Alley lives in the Triad and is proud to be part of a blended family.