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Feature Article


Summer visitation: Make the transition smooth


Dad and young daughter walking along the beachSchool is out and many divorced/separated parents are making plans and preparing for their children’s summer visitation.


While some of this is determined by the parenting plan, every decree is different, according to Kris Jenkins, former University of Missouri Extension health specialist. Most will outline the visitation length, child support details and transportation responsibilities. Some parenting plans are not this specific and most can be adjusted by mutual agreement if it benefits your children.


Flexibility is important. In order to decide whether children spend one long period or several short ones with the non-custodial parent, keep in mind the ages of the children, the length of time they can be gone and the other parent’s ability to care for them. Many children spend a month or six weeks with the non-custodial parent, while others spend longer, especially if the parent lives far away. Sometimes, especially as your children age, the plan doesn’t work or is very difficult to accommodate, so be prepared to renegotiate.


Remember these key points:

  • Children have a right to spend time with both parents.
  • Children should be encouraged to enjoy the time they spend with the non-custodial parent.
  • Children have a right to love both parents.


“All family members have fears and concerns about the visitation,” notes Jenkins. Custodial parents will worry about their children’s health and safety and their adjustment to a different environment.


Children worry about how they will spend their time, their separation from friends, their acceptance by step or half siblings and their relationship with the other parent. Children often do not verbalize their worries or are not old enough to express them, but these worries still exist.


Non-custodial parents have concerns about how to spend time with their children, how to manage chores, responsibilities and work, and if their children will like/love them. They also worry about how the children will blend with new family members.


Summer vacation plans should be made well in advance. Issues of duration, travel, rules, curfews, diet, medicines, etc. should be handled by both parents either by phone, in person and, if necessary, in writing. Actual planned activities should be discussed with the children. These include day or sports camps, swimming lessons, vacation destinations and other events. Children who help make plans have something to look forward to and feel important and valued.


Both parents should prepare children for the summer. The custodial parent can positively influence their children’s attitudes about the visit and the non-custodial parent can keep up regular contact during the school year in order to maintain a good relationship.


Adults should work together to make the summer transition easy for their children.


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Last Updated: 06/05/2017