As much as your kids may look forward to their summer break from school, the summer months can be a stressful time for parents who are trying to work out the logistics of childcare while maintaining their working lives. These logistical issues can be especially challenging if you are recently separated or divorced and learning how to co-parent with your ex.
On top of childcare logistics, you may feel an added pressure to make sure that your children have a positive experience over the summer while still trying to navigate through any disagreements or issues that may arise between you and your former partner.
Fortunately, there are steps that both of you can take to ensure successful co-parenting during this break from school. Here are five steps to help you make the most out of the summer months:
#1. Make a Plan
It may seem obvious, but it is crucial to a successful co-parenting relationship to hash out a plan with your ex that can get you and your children through the summer. This plan should lay out all the parenting responsibilities for both parents, including who will be responsible for childcare and when each parent will have custody or visitation with their children. It should also include any special activities that are planned for the summer months.
Put in place a shared calendar that outlines your children's summer activities, who’s responsible for transportation to and from those activities, and any travel that either of you may be undertaking (whether with your kids or not). It's also helpful to think ahead as much as possible when creating this plan - anticipate potential issues before they arise so that there's already a solution in place if something comes up.
This can help reduce stress when you are in the middle of your summer routine. Put in place a plan for backup care if either one of you has something unexpected come up. Will you each afford the other first right of refusal - calling each other first before reaching out to a babysitter? Or can you collaborate on a list of babysitters, friends, or family members that would be willing to step in if necessary?
#2. Communicate Regularly
Creating a plan requires communication between you and your ex, which may not always be easy if there are still underlying tensions between you two. If you are recently separated or divorced, it can be especially challenging to navigate the day-to-day responsibilities of co-parenting when feelings are still likely very charged. As difficult as it may be, establishing healthy communication habits and boundaries will not only help you and your children get through the summer, but it may also help you achieve a longer lasting mutual peace.
When communicating with your ex, use neutral language and be as respectful as possible. Make sure all discussions are held in a place where both of you can focus on what's being said - this might be in person or over the phone, depending on each of your comfort level.
It can also help to create a shared document, such as a Google Doc, so that all changes and updates can be tracked easily. There are also multiple co-parenting apps that are designed to help separated or divorced parents successfully manage co-parenting. Doing so may help prevent any confusion and unnecessary conflict over who is responsible for what during the summer months.
If communication becomes too difficult or heated, try to imagine your co-parent as a business partner. You may not necessarily want to spend time with them socially, but you can find a way to get along and be cordial to do your job. Keeping conversations focused on facts rather than feelings can help you establish this emotional boundary.
#3. Respect Each Other
Whether you are newly separated or divorced or have been co-parenting for some time, respecting each other and the roles that each of you plays in your children’s lives can make all the difference when navigating through disagreements and logistical issues during summer vacation. Respect not only helps ensure that both parents feel heard and appreciated but also creates a positive environment where everyone involved can thrive.
This means respecting each other's time, space, and boundaries. Try to coordinate when each of you can have time with your children without intruding on the other’s plans. Acknowledge that both of you may have different parenting styles, and that different doesn't necessarily mean better or worse. It's important to respect each other’s decisions and show your children that you respect one another in your roles as parents.
It is important to remember that both parents are equally responsible for their child’s wellbeing and growth during the summer months, regardless of how much time each parent spends with them. As co-parents, be sure to show respect for one another by speaking well of each other in conversations with your kids, respecting the other parent’s rules and boundaries in their home, and avoiding arguments in front of the children.
#4. Be Flexible
Successful co-parenting during summer vacation requires both parents to be flexible to navigate the logistical issues that may arise. This means being open and willing to adjust plans as needed, while acknowledging that each of you have roles and responsibilities outside of being parents.
The fact is that even when you make a seemingly airtight plan, life doesn’t always cooperate accordingly - things come up unexpectedly that may require changes in your routine or even your parenting partnership itself. Being willing to make adjustments if necessary, such as switching custody days or allowing more visitation than originally planned due an unexpected work conflict or travel schedule change on either side of the parenting equation, can be difficult but ultimately mutually beneficial.
#5. Create Fun Memories
Divorce can be a difficult transition for both parents and children to navigate, especially during the summer months when families often plan vacations and activities together. But when your family is going through a separation or divorce, it may feel daunting to think about creating positive family memories at such a time. However, the summer can be a wonderful time to create positive and fun memories with your children and to deepen your relationship with your children in new ways.
You might consider scheduling a day to spend with each of your children separately, allowing them to have special time with you without having to divide your attention between your other children, your job, or your divorce. If your relationship with your ex is relatively amicable or you have been co-parenting for a while, you might think about planning an activity that both you and your ex can do together with your kids. It could be as simple as going out for ice cream after a day at the park or going to a baseball game one afternoon.
At Crossman & McNamee, LLC, we understand that co-parenting can be especially difficult during the summer months. We support parents working toward amicable co-parenting relationships, but we also know that there are situations in which parents will need to call on an experienced family law attorney.
If you need legal support or assistance navigating the complexities of co-parenting, please contact us online or call us at (937) 468-3796 to schedule a consultation.