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. Parents should make their requests early in the New Year; again making sure to exchange plans in writing. Many divorced couples choose alternating years to take the children on vacation. For example, the mother may have odd years, and the father takes even years. This type of schedule avoids arguments over competing requests.
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 costly for just one parent to pay. Consider offering to pay what you had budgeted to your kids summer vacation trip or camp and asking your ex to cover the rest. Don’t ever tell the kids, “Mom can’t afford it, so you can’t do it.” Putting the responsibility on only one parent for a child’s missed opportunity runs the risk of alienating that parent.
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 winter months so relationships remain intact. 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. Giving children a voice about what they would like to do also alleviates the burden of one parent having to explain to the other parent why their child does not want to go to the farm this year on summer break.
Support your child’s relationship with your ex. 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. Some may not react to vacationing with the other parent in the way the 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. It can be easy to take this personally and resent your child’s feelings. Instead of getting upset, 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.
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 they can call or email her other parent on a daily basis (or whatever arrangement you and your ex made regarding contact).
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 parent; they don’t often care if that’s tenting in the backyard or a trip to Disney. As long as the parent is attentive and meeting the child’s interests, the child will be happy.