Does the thought of handling child custody or parenting issues during the summer holidays make you nervous? Well, you aren’t alone.
Summer vacation is usually the most anticipated time of year for kids, but it can be quite a stressful time for parents – especially parents who are separated or divorced. This is because the regular routine is no longer being followed, childcare needs to be arranged, kids participate in summer activities, and families go travelling. This is another reason why it is helpful to have everything regarding summer schedules outlined in a parenting plan. However, things may come up that don’t fit perfectly within the plan, so they still need to be worked out between the parents.
Here are 3 key things to keep top of mind when it comes to custody issues during summer vacation:
- Always ask yourself “What is the best situation for the children?”
Going back and forth between homes and travelling long distances can really take a toll on kids during a regular week. Then, when you add in the extra free time and inconvenience that comes along with summer holidays, the stress and anxiety can really intensify. For example, taking your kids on a one month vacation may sound like a great idea, but how will that affect your children? They would be away from one parent for a great length of time, not be in familiar surroundings, miss out on summer activities, and be away from their friends. Is that truly a “vacation”? Kids need to enjoy their break away from a long school year too.
- Consider the relationship with your ex when planning.
Some parents get along fine after a separation or divorce. This tends to make planning and organizing much easier and less strenuous on everyone involved. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury.
If you have a relationship that involves a lot of conflict during the regular school year, planning for the summer can be just as challenging…if not more. These are the types of situations where a parenting plan is extremely beneficial.
If you don’t have a formal parenting plan worked out, you should still get together with each other, and ideally, with the help of a family mediator. You will want to determine what will happen over the summer with regard to custody, vacations away, activities (camp, sports), etc. Most importantly, you need to decide how everything will be communicated to each other – especially any changes that may arise that veer off from your negotiations.
- Plan well in advance.
Planning for the summer holidays cannot be done last minute. This needs to be done as soon as possible, especially since the majority of separated and divorced parents have full-time jobs. Also, requests for vacation need to be made well in advance so parents can coordinate to take time off when the other person will be in town.
You may also need to make childcare arrangements, depending on the ages of the children. Relatives may be planning to visit that you need to schedule around too. You will also need to pick activities that are feasible in terms of being able to get them there and also pick them up…and ensure they don’t collide too much with any travel plans. Older children may make summer plans with friends, and they would also need to sit down with a parent to fit those plans into a schedule that works for the whole family.
Planning always makes things go much more smoothly! It’s always better (and less stressful) to be proactive vs. reactive. Sure, things will always come up that you can’t plan for, but planning as much as possible will make life much easier.
Consult a family mediator for help in setting up a formal parenting plan, or to negotiate how you will plan out the summer schedules, and everything that comes along with that. You will have a much more relaxing July and August if you go this route.