Are you ready for the Summer? 8 TIPS for a great post-divorce SUMMER visitation!
It’s almost summer! School will be out and the sun will be shining. Make sure that your summer will be a great one for your family by following these tips:
Create a co-parenting plan
If you haven’t done so already, sit down with your co-parent and a mediator and devise a mutually agreed upon plan for parenting. If you are working from a previously drawn up plan, keep in mind that an access schedule that worked in the past may not continue to be in the best interests of the family now. As children grow, their needs and interests change. Parent’s may have moved or changed jobs. Be flexible. You both want your children to have wonderful summer memories and a thoughtfully crafted visitation plan can help them do that.
Remember, In a St.Tammany Parish, Louisiana divorce it is acceptable to deviate from an existing court order or co-parenting plan if both ex spouses agree. If changes to the plan are necessary it’s best to put those in writing and have both co-parents signed off on them.
Prepare to be away from your Children
If you are the spouse who will be away from the children, prepare yourself ! While a child-free summer of sleeping late and solo bubble baths may seem like parenting nirvana, the reality is that you will miss your children. Don’t pass on your anxiety to your children. Make sure that you set up times when you will talk with them on the phone and plan activates for yourself to keep yourself busy. Use the time to tackle a project or hobby that you have been too busy parenting to pursue.
Do not dwell on how hard the separation will be for you. Your child doesn’t need to worry about how you are coping alone. Instead, give her permission to enjoy herself and have fun. As the parent who will be with the child, ensure your child she can call or email her other parent on a daily basis (or whatever arrangement you and your ex made regarding contact). Be happy she is going to enjoy her summer.
Share vacation plans with your ex as soon as possible
When it comes to planning the summer holidays with the kids, the earlier co-parents have these discussions the less likely there is for either ex to be surprised by untold plans. Communication is key! Parents should make their requests early in the New Year; again making sure to exchange plans in writing. Summer isn’t always predictable and often certain dates of the year cannot be avoided – birthdays, graduation, family reunions, etc. where both parents wish to participate. It is important for parents to work together to make it possible for the children to enjoy these events. It’s a good idea to have these conversations in advance as well. Don’t force family gatherings on your children if you and your spouse cannot get along. Your child will be happier if she is not subjected to arguments, snide remarks or other hurtful behavior. If you know you can’t get along in the same room together, plan to have separate celebrations with your child.
Share the costs
Who is paying for what should also be a part of the co-parenting plan. Flights, summer camps, sport lessons and extracurricular activities can be expensive for just one parent to pay. Look carefully at your budget before committing to summer activities.
Get the kids’ input
It is important to have well laid out plans. Children do better when they have routine and structure. It’s also important for the kids to spend extra time with the parent they don’t spend as much time with during the school year so relationships can deepen and grow.
However, it is also very important that the kids have time to be kids. Make sure their needs and interests are taken into consideration during the vacation planning phase. Instead of informing children about plans, talk with them about how they would like to spend their summer. You might find out your plans to take them on an exotic vacation is usurped by their desire to stay in town and play soccer. This way you avoid resentment caused by spending unnecessary money and taking along a sulky kid on holiday.
Support your child’s relationship with both parents. If traveling with the kids, give the other parent contact information and help your children maintain consistent contact with the other parent by phone, email or video conferencing. Sign any travel documents needed if your ex is taking the children out of the country. If your ex doesn’t see your children on a regular basis make sure your ex understands your child’s capabilities when it comes to swimming, hiking, or other activities. You want their experience together to be safe and successful.
Flexibility is especially important when new partners and their kids are introduced into the mix. If you’re the new girlfriend/boyfriend, don’t interfere when it comes to summer vacation planning. Allow the co-parents and their children to work this out. This is an opportunity for you to get to know your partner’s children; what their passions and talents are. What better way to involve your self in someone else’s life than to do with them the things they like doing!
Changes in routine can create stress for some kids. Your child may not react to vacationing with the other parent in the way that parent wants them to. Children may miss their other parent. Your child may be sad at times and resist your efforts to be with him. Don’t take it personally. Don’t resent your child’s feelings. Instead, put yourself in your child’s shoes. Offer comfort and understanding. It will take time for your child to adjust to changes in his routine.
Both parents should prepare their child for being away from their other parent and encourage communication with the absent parent. Remind your child that she is going to be with a parent who loves her and is so excited to be able to spend time with her. Tell her you’ll miss her and she’ll miss you, but you’ll be together again very soon. Pack special stuffed animals, favorite toys and a picture of you; things that will provide comfort away from home. As the parent who is spending time with your child, appreciate your child’s need to have these things.
Don’t try to one-up the other with who has the better holiday planned with the kids. This only creates animosity between co-parents and guilt in children. Kids just want to spend time with their parents and have fun! They don’t often care if that’s tenting in the backyard or a trip to Disney World! As long as the parent is attentive and meeting the child’s interests, the child will be happy.
HAVE A SAFE and HAPPY SUMMER!