By Karen Dorsey, M.Ed., CDC®, Certified Co-Parenting Specialist
Summer is almost here and it can be a time of freedom and fun for families. For children of divorced or separated parents, it can be a time of anxiety, stress, sadness and change without the structure of their yearly school routine. Good co-parenting can help alleviate some of the stressors so that kids can enjoy the time they spend with both parents.
Whether it’s your first summer apart or your 10th, tackling the summer vacation arrangements can be overwhelming. You might not know what you want or what’s fair. You might have a clear vision of what you want, but your ex won’t buy into it.
If you and your co-parent are amicable, or at least civil, you can create a plan together. Both of you put forward your suggestions and then work from there. Or if they are dragging their heels, you could make suggestions and invite them to agree or suggest other arrangements.
Here are 5 tips for how to successfully navigate co-parenting during the summer:
- Don’t wait until the last minute to plan. You should both know the last day of school for your children well in advance. Plan to schedule a time whether in person, over the phone or through a parenting app to plan a summer schedule with your Parenting Plan guidelines in mind. Doing this months in advance gives you time to negotiate as well as time to confirm dates and schedule any trips you each want to take with your children.
- Determine daily child care. The biggest issue during the summer is who will take care of your children while they are not in school. Will your work schedules change? If neither of you can stay home and your kids cannot stay home alone, then what will be your child care options? Be sensitive to relying on a teenager to take care of younger siblings every day. Consider daycare programs or local day camps or sharing a nanny with your co-parent as better options.
- Will you need to agree on finances to cover camps or other childcare? Finances for overnight camps, sports and arts programs can be very costly. Many children have outgrown last year’s summer clothes and you and your co-parent may need to discuss additional summer-related expenses.
- Flexibility is key – things are never going to be perfect especially if you’re dealing with a less than cooperative co-parent. Ideally, you should go into summer with a predetermined schedule, but summer time rules can be overlooked and difficult to apply. The reality is that lots can happen to derail even the best-laid plans. Being able to handle unexpected situations as calmly and politely as possible will serve you and your children best.
- Practice self care. For many parents, summer vacation means their children will spend an extended period of time with their other parent and other family members. You may have been used to seeing your children most days, yet suddenly, they may be gone for weeks. Be mindful of your own emotions around this time so that you can better prepare for your child-free time. Do the best you can to take care of yourself emotionally and physically particularly if this is your first summer of co-parenting. Consider planning something you will enjoy during this time. When your children return, you can feel refreshed and excited about listening to what your children liked best about their summer vacation!