Emilio and his second wife, Sarah, have three children, ages 5, 3 and 1. Emilio has physical custody of his three children from his first marriage. They are ages 10, 8, and 6. All together, Emilio and Sarah are raising six children.
Last summer, Emilio’s first wife, Emma, requested for the first time since their divorce for their children to spend summer vacation with her and her parents. Emilio did not deny her request. Emilio and Emma always considered what was best for their children’s health, happiness and well-being.
One day, when James and his brothers were having a discussion with their dad, James said he would like to live with his mom, grandma and grandpa in the mainland. "Mom believes attending school in the states is more exciting than on Guam," he said. "Mom mentioned that she needed assistance with the care of her parents."
Jesse chimed in that he liked spending time with his mom, grandma and grandpa. But he said he enjoyed playing with his sisters and younger brother, Aunt Sarah more.
Jose added, “I love Mom, Nana and Papa, but I do not like spending the whole summer with them. I would rather stay here with you and Auntie Sarah. We learn a lot of children’s activities while attending the summer camp, church services and do a lot as a family. With Mom, because she works all the time, we stay home all day with Grandpa and Grandma most of the time. There is nothing much to do but watch television.”
Emilio was stunned and could not respond on how he honestly felt about what he heard from his sons and the whole scheme about James wanting to relocate and stay with his mom to help his grandparents. After all, James was only 10.
Emilio replied with compassion, “James, I need to talk with your mother about this proposed arrangement. It is terrific to have a relationship with care toward your grandparents. Thank you for sharing your concerns.”
Fighting back tears, Emilio did not realize what was happening when his sons were with their mother. He reassured his sons of his deep love.
Emilio said, “Your younger siblings, Sarah and I love you all very much. Your mom and I will figure things out on what is best for all of you. Maybe it would be a good idea if we could all face time or Skype with your mom. Don’t worry everything will work out just fine. At the end of the conversation, Emilio and sons hugged each other with affection!”
Summertime custody schedules can be a nerve-racking time and hectic time of the year for kids of divorce – especially when their parents have a custody arrangement in which one parent has primary custody and the other parent has limited visitation throughout the year.
Have a meeting with your ex-spouse, the children and you in a non-intimidating positive environment. Plan for your meeting. The final decision is rests with you and your ex on what is best for the children. Take into consideration the distinctive dynamic of the household such as parent’s work schedules, location of each household, etc. If you are the primary custodian of your kids, it is time for them to spend a few weeks or months with the other parent.
Guidelines for affirmative custodial summertime visits with the children:
- Reassure children of your love. Say “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you."
- Be aware of your kid’s usual routine and apply it during the visitation.
- Learn to listen without interrupting.
- Make them feel comfortable. If they are very young, they may want a stuffed animal as a security toy.
- Always respect the other parent.
- Be patient with your kids.
- Maintain open communication with the other parent with dignity in regards to children’s issues.
- Know your child's food preferences, allergies and other health issues.
- Keep humble at all times; do not let arrogance play you out.
- Prearrange visits from the custodial parent during extended visitation.
- Agree to daily basic communication between the other parent and child.
- Keep positive, and stay focused on what is happening with your child at all times.
Marie Virata Halloran, a registered nurse, is a grief-recovery specialist and executive director of Rainbows for All Children Guam/LifeWorks Guam.