Planning Your Kids’ Summer
I know what you’re thinking… it’s cold and it’s December. Isn’t it too early to start thinking about summer? The answer is NO.
Summer can be a time of leisure and relaxation for families, but so often children of divorced or separated parents can be caught in the middle of conflicts concerning summer vacation arrangements. The best advice I can give any parent is start planning early.
A major factor in ensuring you and your child have a less stressed summer is having open and clear communication with your former spouse. It’s key to start communicating about your summer plans early (ideally, as soon as you become aware of them) and to communicate your proposed ideas for your child’s summer to minimize confusion and conflict. Open and clear communication with your former spouse can significantly reduce the stress brought on by a new schedule for the summer and create the best environment for your child to thrive.
Many of my clients who have shared custody of their children follow a 2-2-5-5 or 3-4-4-3 weekly timeshare schedule, but that can obviously create a lot of headaches when trying to schedule summer camps or other activities. Frequently, in cases where parents share custody, but are unable to agree on which camps the children should attempt, I will often suggest that they try to shift their normal weekly schedules to a “week-on, week-off” for the 10-12 weeks of summer vacation. That way, each parent can enroll the children in a summer camp or his or her choosing during his or her weeks.
There are a lot of ways to alleviate the stress of summer scheduling, but a paramount consideration is to acknowledge that there needs to be a give and take of time and you should be prepared to make necessary changes to your desired schedule. Parents should evaluate the child’s interests and passions when planning activities so that the child has the necessary outlets, such as art, horseback riding or sports camps, to express themselves and explore their interests.
When speaking about the child’s summer plans with the other parent, refrain from using a resentful or negative tone and reserve those feelings for a conversation with a friend or therapist. Summer should be a time for your child to strengthen relationships with both of his or her parents. The added free time of summer may also be the perfect opportunity for both parents and children to start family mediation or therapy to promote further positive communication.
Summer can be a great time to improve parent-child relationships so let that be your driving force in making the summer the best possible time your child. Focusing on your child and encouraging favorable communication with your former spouse will benefit the entire family and you will see the positivity pay off into the school year.