To many people, young and old, summer is the time to enjoy longer days, carefree fun, and adventures. The warm weather, sunshine, and even humidity make us feel happier and healthier—and the more relaxed season inspires us to socialize more, enjoy outdoor activities, and soak up that vitamin D. More than likely, you’ll want to share this time with your kids.
Even though the season offers many opportunities for relaxation, for divorced parents, summer can be the most demanding time of the year thanks to juggling schedules, travel plans, and coordination among separate households—and all while dealing with the emotions and negative attitudes surrounding a fractured family relationship. Here are a few things to consider as co-parents:
From the legal standpoint, it is important that during the divorce proceeding, you or your attorney document the request for travel—either to see family in a different state or embark on an international adventure—and that it is both outlined thoroughly in the custody and parenting agreement and approved by the court. This agreement should make provisions for the duration of out-of-town vacations and the need for the non-traveling parent’s approval. The agreement should also outline how much advance notice is required and what the financial responsibilities will be during these times—and, if advanced notice and financial obligations are not requested in a reasonable amount of time, what the repercussions would be given the parameters of the agreement. The goal of outlining seasonal travel in the divorce decree is that both parents will have a record of the court order and thus should be familiar with it so there are no surprises when summer adventures call.
As temperatures heat up, so can tempers. The success of co-parenting centers around communication and cooperation, and applying these strategies as you share time and travel plans with your children during the summer is no different. As a relationship-building courtesy, it is best to discuss the trip details with the other parent before even telling your child—thus allowing them to respond with questions or concerns without the distraction of an excited or disappointed child. It is also important to provide your child’s co-parent with as much information as possible about the vacation ahead of time. This includes destination descriptions, arrival and departure times, transportation details, the location and type of lodging, and travel companions, particularly if their connection to you and your child is unfamiliar to the other parent. While you are away, regular communication with your ex-spouse regarding any schedule changes or updates, as well as important information about your child’s well-being, will reduce stress and worry. Scheduling times to connect via phone or video with the non-traveling parent during the trip creates goodwill with your ex and sets expectations for when you are the non-traveling parent. Furthermore, having your child share their experiences with both parents fosters a better relationship with everyone involved.
Being flexible and understanding while navigating your shared time with your child is key to decreasing frustration. Flights get canceled, people get ill, and weather changes outdoor activities, so when these unexpected circumstances in vacation plans arise, be prepared to adjust and accommodate the moment. And even if you do not have the best relationship with your ex, trust that they have the child’s best interest in mind when these snafus pop up. Take deep breaths, go on a walk, or meet friends for dinner to organize your thoughts; keep your cool when you respond to your ex about anything, whether trip changes or otherwise. This attitude will help maintain a harmonious co-parenting relationship that will benefit your child’s summer fun and cast a shining light on their memories of the season—as well as set the right tone for your co-parenting future.
Don’t get burned this summer. Protect yourself with SPF and a flexible mindset while co-parenting during the warmer weather. If it is true that parents only get 18 summers with their child, focus on the opportunities you have to create happy memories that will last for all the seasons of their life.