Kids look forward to a summer break from school, but for divorced parents it can be a time of stress and conflict. Below are some tips to help reduce the anxiety give kids the care-free and fun-filled summer they deserve.
Put the children’s needs first
Putting the children’s needs first, allows the kids to have a say in the summer planning process. For example, the parent can propose three activities and allow the children to choose which activity they’d like to do first. By delegating some control to the children, this lets them feel valued in the decision-making process. For divorced parents with multiple children, it is best to coordinate the activities in advance. Some plans may be suitable for all kids to do together, while other activities may be better spent during one-on-one time. It is important to ensure all children receive an equal amount of time from both parents, so no one feels hurt or left out.
Bring the kids along
If the children are not enrolled at a summer camp or summer school, which can take up a majority of the day, get together with some friends whose kids are free over the summer. Creating plans can be as simple as having a picnic on the beach or a taking a trip to the local water park. This gives the kids an opportunity to have a playdate with their friends while simultaneously providing the parents with an opportunity to catch up with other adults. It is not necessary to plan extravagant excursions to please the kids either; summer plans can be as easy as having a friend at the house, going out for ice cream, or spending an afternoon at the park.
Every minute does not need to be planned
While it may be nice to have the kids partake in activities all summer long, it is not necessary to plan a busy schedule every single day. Children need to have some down time to relax, and so do parents – especially those who are divorced. Running around all day can be exhausting. Some low-key summer activities include watching a movie at the house, creating a DIY art project, or having a water balloon fight in the back yard. Spending time with children while they’re young can help create a stronger bond. When all is said and done, kids love to have their parents’ undivided attention… a day spent at home can do just that.
Communication is key
Good communication is the key to great co-parenting. It is critical for divorced parents to communicate effectively with their ex, especially during the summer months when the kids’ schedules free up. Making plans for the kids requires coordination on both ends; being on the same page is a must while making plans. One big no-no to avoid is double-booking an activity. Doing so can create an uncomfortable position for the child, as well as the people with whom the plans were made. Create a schedule and stick to it. If a last-minute situation arises, communication amongst the adults is the best solution. Do not relay messages through the kids or put the children in the middle. Consider keeping each family member in the loop by creating a family group chat or e-mail group to make sure everyone is aware of the plans. By doing this, it can also help eliminate the number of surprises and double-bookings in the kids’ calendars.
Navigating family holidays
Holidays can be a touchy subject for families that have gone through divorce. It is not always easy to determine which holiday should be spent with which parent. When possible, try to create a civil relationship which can allow for more meaningful events to be spent together as a family such as attending a 4th of July parade or a Labor Day barbeque as a family. These outings will be remembered and cherished for both children and adults. It’s important for the parents to put aside their differences and have the child’s best interest at heart.
Share the expenses
Keeping track of which parent pays for what can be difficult to record. One method to help monitor the expenses is to create a shared excel spread sheet and record how much each parent has contributed toward summer activities. Often times, it may not be realistic to split the expenses 50/50 for each transaction. An example might be having one parent pay for a summer trip and the other pay for associating costs (such as clothing, food, toiletries, equipment, etc.) for the trip. Talking to each other about finances after divorce can be difficult, but it is necessary to do so in order to avoid resentment in the future.
Avoid bad mouthing at all costs
Creating boundaries of what can be discussed in front of the kids can help protect them from being tainted by a broken relationship. While adults make the decision to divorce from one another, it is important to keep in mind that the children were not a part of that decision. Bad-mouthing an ex in front of the children can put them in an awkward position; doing so may subconsciously force the them to take sides in an argument. An example of this would be if one parent pays for summer camp and expresses their frustration to the kids. Being caught in the middle is no place for a child.
Take time for yourself
Everyone deserves some time for themselves. On the days the kids are occupied with summer activities, make plans to treat yourself. Whether that may be going out with some friends, getting a massage or heading to the gym, it’s important to take some time to care for yourself. Of course, as a parent, the children will always come first. However, that does not mean that one’s personal health should be sacrificed.
Create ever lasting memories
Summer break is one of the best times of the year for kids. This is the time when families create some of the happiest and most long-lasting memories. Keeping in mind that the children must always come first, a solution can always be found in any circumstance. It is my hope that the tips mentioned above will help divorced parents navigate the summer months ahead.