Summer vacation is bliss for your children. They go several months without school and can spend their time with their loved ones and play outside. Unfortunately, as a parent, summer vacation is far less exciting. When you are divorced or unmarried to your children’s other parent, it forces you to determine an entirely new schedule, which can make co-parenting during the summer difficult.
Co-Parenting During the Summer can be Challenging.
However, there are steps you can take to plan ahead and smoothly transition from one schedule to another.
1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Plan
Hopefully, you have worked out a parenting plan that deals with holidays. If not, consider asking your family lawyer for a referral to a neutral professional who can help you create this plan.
Even if you don’t yet have a parenting plan, you should know the last day of school for your children well in advance, so there’s no need to wait to plan the summer schedule until that day is upon you! By the end of winter, you should make an appointment to meet with your co-parent (in person, over the phone, or in a neutral professional’s office depending on how cooperative you are with each other) to plan a summer schedule for your children. This gives you time to negotiate as well as time to confirm dates and schedule any trips you each want to take with the kids, etc.
If you have waited until now to plan – don’t panic! Schedule a time to speak with your co-parent as soon as possible and keep this tip in mind for next year.
2. Involve Your Children
Your children want to enjoy their summer vacation: they look forward to it all year. They certainly don’t want to be miserable and cooped up inside because of your failure to plan. In late winter, start talking to your children about what they are most looking forward to doing during the summer vacation. Depending on your children’s ages, ask their opinions about day camp, childcare while at home, and activities. This can guide you and your co-parent to find the right solutions that your kids will enjoy – and that won’t break the bank.
3. Determine Daily Child Care
The biggest issue during the summer is who will take care of your children while they are not in school. If neither of you can stay home with the children, and if they are not old and mature enough to stay home alone, discuss childcare options. You may have family members who would love to watch your children. Unless you know him/her very well, you should be careful about relying on a teenager to take care of younger kids every day. Consider asking whether your prospective sitter has taken classes in babysitting and childcare – such as those offered by the Red Cross. You could also consider a summer daycare program or local day camps, which can be a great way to keep your children entertained and supervised. If you live reasonably close to each other, you could also consider sharing a nanny with your co-parent over the summer.
4. Agree on the Rules
When co-parenting during the summer, standard Fall-to-Spring rules can be overlooked or difficult to apply. Your children may not like it, but you and their other parent need to come up with summertime rules that you can all stick to. This also includes rules on when and where the children can go alone – assuming they are old enough to stay home without adult supervision – and how to handle invitations to friends’ houses or cottages.
5. Revisit Holidays, Birthdays, and Other Parties
Even if you’ve had the discussion before, you should confirm how you and your children’s other parent will handle summer holidays, birthdays, and other parties. It is essential that you agree on as much as possible ahead of time – such as who is responsible for transportation to parties and who purchases any gifts.
6. Expect to Share Costs
Summer can get expensive when you have kids. They may want to go to overnight camp or participate in sports or arts programs that could cost thousands of dollars. Many children will have outgrown last year’s summer clothes and need new shorts, tops, swimsuits, and sandals. Prepare as best you can for summer-related expenses – and if you have not addressed the issue in child-support discussions, talk with your co-parent about splitting some or all of the costs.
7. Be Flexible
Ideally, you and your co-parent should go into summer with a predetermined schedule. You should be ready for the first Monday after school ends, and your children should know what to expect. However, the reality is that lots can happen to derail even the best-laid plans for summer vacation. You need to be prepared to handle unexpected situations as calmly and politely as possible when co-parenting during the summer. Flexibility ensures you maintain the schedule as best you can, without your rigidity becoming detrimental to your children.
8. Practice Self-Care
For many parents, summer vacation means their children will spend an extended period with their other parent or other family members. You may be used to seeing your children every day, yet suddenly, they may be gone for weeks. During this time, be mindful of your negative emotions. Do your best to take care of yourself emotionally and physically – especially when co-parenting during the summer for the first time.
9. Do Not Compete with Your Co-Parent
During the summer, you may be tempted to compete with your co-parent – overtly or covertly. You may have the means to plan a more lavish summer vacation. You may be able to pay for a better or longer overnight camp, or you may be willing to hand over more money for theme parks, movies, shopping, dining out, and other activities. If you have the impulse to compete, make sure to rein it in. The best summer memories are not created by money or material objects. Your children will benefit most from quality time with both of their parents over the summer.
There’s nothing more wonderful than watching your children grow and have fun over the summer. If you are totally unprepared, your opportunity to make those great memories gets lost in the stress and confusion. Your best chance of squeezing in all the family time and activities you want is by properly planning with your co-parent.