It’s that time of year again! Summer time offers children a special time to look forward to fun, outdoor activities and freedom from school duties. While all that typically comes with summer break for kids, for post-divorce parents, it can be a challenging time.
What is typical in many co-parenting arrangements, children are with one parent or the other for longer periods of time over the summer than during the school year.
In summer time, regular schedules and habits change. It’s this change up in routine and scheduled parent time that can produces anxiety for children and concern for parents.
Here are 5 tips to help post-divorce parents make a smooth transition from a school year schedule to summer vacation time – and make it easier for everyone in the family.
1. Discuss Vacation Plans Early and Be Flexible:
Well in advance of booking tickets or making camp reservations, talk to your ex-spouse about plans to enroll children in summer programs and/or taking vacation trips. This provides busy adults an opportunity to make plans, schedule work and also gives children a clear understanding of how their summer break will be spent. By taking care of this sooner rather than later, it allows time for parents to identify and resolve any schedule concerns that might arise in the planning process. Good advance planning will help reduce frustrations later.
2. Don’t Overschedule or Overwhelm Children With Activities:
Part of the fun of summer and vacation is in the casual use of time to play and relax together. While it may be tempting to make best use of the break with multiple activity camps and sports sessions; too much activity might just leave kids stressed and burned out. Children value time together with you and their friends without constant structure or demands.
3. Communicate Directly When Scheduling Changes Must Be Made:
Good communication is key in order to keep the peace and also respect as the foundation of a healthy post-divorce relationship. Clear communication about schedule changes minimizes surprises and ensures you know what’s happening in your children’s lives. If talking to your ex-spouse in person is too stressful, consider using email to stay up to date and also a shared online calendar. However, DO NOT use your child or children as messengers of schedule and vacation updates. Planning and scheduling are adult concerns, especially in co-parenting arrangements. Work to maintain a respectful tone in your communications, and use thoughtful negotiation to resolve any conflicts.
4. Maintain Positive Attitude:
Your children will remember the example of your attitude and mirror your behavior with your ex-spouse. Do your best, at all times, to never speak poorly about your ex-spouse in front of your child or children and avoid asking them to take sides or favor one parent’s or home over the other. In order for your children to grow and thrive as adults, they should feel free to love both parents equally. A child should never feel badly or confused about wanting to spend time with the other parent at any time of the year, vacations included.
5. Vacations Should Be A Special Time To Remember:
Think back to your own childhood and you may recall how much you looked forward to the long stretch of summer break, spending time with family, friends and unscheduled play time. By creating the space and opportunity for these types of situations, you’ll be positively creating those same types of memories for your own children. Spending summer vacation time with each parent, is simply part of the scheduling process that the adults must properly manage. What your children will remember is how they felt and what they experienced through their parents’ interactions with each other.
Though summer vacation may require additional planning and communication with your ex-spouse, it can also be a time that you create special memories that will last forever. Cooperating and co-parenting with your ex-spouse can help ensure that summer break is a fun time for the entire family.