For parents who share their children, summer vacation can be both a coveted time to enjoy the extra hours with children, as well as a stressful period when coordinating summer camps, shared parenting and extra childcare can be daunting. The following tips can help you and your ex navigate the upcoming summer break.
- Do Not Use Your Children As Messengers – This tip applies not only to planning for summer break, but at all times. Asking your child to participate in a discussion between you and your ex, no matter how small the role, puts them in the middle. Your goal should be to keep your children out of any discussion and keep the conversation between you and your ex.
- Evaluate your Parenting Plan, Or Create One – If you have a parenting plan that encompasses summer vacation, pull it out and review it. Was it written years ago? Have your children’s needs and interests changed since it was drafted? Or, do you not have a summer-specific parenting plan? Keep in mind that your children may now be in summer camps or have sports or activities that take up quite a bit of their time. Your children’s activities should be considered when creating or updating your parenting plan.
- Plan Early – One easy way to avoid conflict is by planning vacation time well in advance. Begin a conversation about your wishes for summer vacation a few months in advance. This will allow you and your ex to both participate in the discussion and be heard. Don’t make demands, and keep an open mind when having the discussion.
- Vacation Plans – Keep in mind that with everyone’s busy schedules, planning ahead is vital. Share any potential vacation plans as early as possible to avoid unnecessary conflict, and to allow discussion if plans or dates overlap. Be willing to share vacation details, such as dates, flight details, hotel information, etc. You will want to know where your child is going to be and how to reach them; extend that same courtesy to your ex.
- Rules – Do you currently discuss the rules that are followed in your house and your ex’s house? Or, do you have separate rules at each home? Will you follow the same rules all year, or are there different rules during break? Are the children allowed to stay up later? Are there certain baby-sitters that you both trust? Are the children allowed to swim without adult supervision? Discussing these types of issues and reaching an understanding ahead of time will help avoid stressful discussions after the fact.
- Activities – Do your children play sports? Act? Love science? If your children have extracurricular activities, and most do, will they attend camps? Play on a sports team? Who will pay for these activities? And provide transportation? Will the costs be shared, as well as the transportation, or will one parent cover more of the cost while the other does more of the driving?
- Be Open – It can sometimes take children time to adjust to a change in their schedule. Understand that they may miss their other parent when on vacation or when they start a new schedule, and may need to call more than they usually do. Focus on your children and on their needs first. Think of ways to help guide them through the transition. And, check in with your ex regularly, so that you are both aware of how your children are adjusting and so that you can provide a united parenting front.