Ah, co-parenting, just when you thought the hard part was over (the dreaded Divorce), now you get to bicker over every aspect of your children’s lives for the next decade (or longer!). But what if you don’t want to do that. Well, this is a very big topic with many parts and my mom always said the best way to eat an elephant was one bite at a time. So we’re going to focus on defeating the summer schedule tirades today. Here are our top tips:
Have a specific Parenting Plan
One thing that you can count on is that the summer schedule will continue to impact your life for years to come. This alone is reason enough to create a Parenting Plan that specifically includes provisions for the summer months. A parenting plan can be entered with your Judgment of Divorce or can be executed after your divorce. Parenting plans are best created with family counselors or co-parenting counselors. Even better, health insurance will often cover a portion of the cost of counseling sessions.
Structure the Children’s Time
Keeping your children occupied during the summer is arguably the most difficult part of planning for summer break, whether parents are married or divorced. Add in trying to balance time with a parent who may have limited parenting time throughout the rest of the year and you may have an explosive issue on your hands as to how the summer should be spent. Structuring children’s time with everyone’s needs in mind (mom, dad, siblings, important events) will ensure that expectations will be realistic and met.
Work out Parenting Time Schedules Far in Advance
As far as possible in advance, but no less than 30 days before the summer schedule is to begin. In fact, the best scenario is a set summer parenting time schedule to be applied every summer to end the conversation (and conflict) altogether. Many families choose to alternate who will control the summer schedule or try to come up with a new summer schedule every year in an attempt to accommodate summer vacations and special events. Two realities here need to be faced: 1) When you have a blended family, the children are not going to be present at everything all the time. It’s not possible; 2) Divorce is a compromise where all parties lose things that are important to them, if you have minor children, schedule control is one of them. If you want to take the kids on a cruise this summer and you already know when your parenting time will be, that’s when you will need to schedule the cruise. Also, with all the reduced conflict, if you really, really need a particular time frame during the summer, the ex is much more likely to comply.
If you are in a high-conflict situation with your co-parent, it is recommended that parenting time exchanges be limited as much as possible. Consider arranging for summer time exchanges to take place at summer camps or summer schools or other events to limit or eliminate any anxieties children (and parents) may experience in anticipation of a conflict at exchange.
Stay on Topic
When planning the summer schedule, don’t stray from the task at hand. If there are other parenting issues that you need to resolve, the time to address these issues is not when planning the summer schedule. The best way to do this is to put everything in writing. Any agreements or changes to scheduling should always be in writing, at very least an email. Never make agreements or schedule modifications through a text message, a skype message, facebook chat, or over the telephone. Having an agreement in writing allows everyone to have the same document to refresh their memories and rely on.
Summer should be a time for families to relax together, don’t let anyone (or yourself) make it needlessly stressful. Follow these steps to walk right past the tirades and right on to your family’s best summer yet!
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