With the arrival of summer vacation, many children in Pennsylvania will go on more extended visits with their noncustodial parents. This might be a nice break for you, but upon their return, you might wonder if your ex replaced your well-behaved children with a pack of wild animals. Suddenly, they are unruly, defiant and challenging of your authority.
Before you pack your bags to go on a break of your own, realize that this is totally normal. Many extended visitations during the summer last between four and six weeks – plenty of time for your children to get accustomed to rules and structure that may be significantly different from your own.
Why do kids act up after visitation?
There are plenty of reasons for your children to drive you crazy after their return from the other parent. It is normal for children to act out when their routine is disrupted, even if they usually prefer to live with you. A sudden change in location and household rules can be disorienting and confusing, as well as frightening for younger children. They might feel insecure or guilty if they missed you or are currently missing the other parent.
What should I do?
Firstly, you should reassure your children that it is perfectly fine to miss the other parent and you do not expect them to take sides. You might want to set aside a half hour or so to let them tell you about their visit. Then you can gently remind them of the rules and structure you expect them to live by in your home. Children thrive with consistency, and it may take them a few days to adjust.
Your ex may have a different way of parenting, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is common for noncustodial parents to be a little more lenient with rules, which may be due to guilt, happiness to spend more time with them or even to upset you. No matter the reason, you can de-escalate an irritating situation by not letting it get to you and treating your ex courteously. The way parents handle stressful situations can affect how children react to change and stress.