By Amy Paul, MS, NCC, LPC
Summer schedules can present a challenge for divorced parents. During the school year, parents have already agreed on a schedule for which nights the children will sleep over each parent's house on school nights, how parents will share weekend time with their children, and when parents will spend parenting time with their children during the week. More free time during the months off from school creates a need for divorced parents to communicate and work cooperatively in addressing their children's summer schedules. Each family has its own unique set of circumstances defined by each parent's willingness to work together as partners in parenting, their work schedules, and their children's level of independence and individual needs. Keeping in mind guidelines for summer planning can help to make this annual transition an easier one.
Planning in advance is an effective way of reducing the pressure parents feel to accommodate summertime schedules. Agreeing to discuss summer planning every year in March provides parents with adequate time to plan for the summer months.
A well thought out and communicated plan between parents is necessary, especially for the summer months. Children find security in having a routine they can rely upon. Parents will need to discuss if the overnight schedule will change. Depending on parents' work schedules and vacation time, the summertime can create a much-needed opportunity for parents and children to spend additional time together. Be creative. This could mean an additional evening or overnight each week, some long weekends throughout the summer, or a vacation. Some parents find it helpful to agree to each plan summer vacations during the weeks immediately following the end of school or prior to when school begins. This addresses the need to find childcare before camp programs begin and after they end.
It is most important for divorced parents to keep the lines of communication open regarding parenting their children. Being able to discuss the many issues that will develop as children grow up will teach them a very important life lesson, that their parents love and respect them to put their needs first and are teaching them how to resolve issues in a respectful manner.
Parents must keep their goals in mind even when they are exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, depleted, and over-burdened by work, finances, and a flat tire. Children need a leader, especially during divorce. A parent must speak well of the other parent and encourage a loving relationship between the children and their mother or father. Parents must encourage children to talk freely about their feelings, but stop them from getting into the middle of the divorce or the circumstances that brought it about. Parents must protect their children from overhearing phone calls in which they are blowing off steam to a friend or arguing with the other parent. Parents must be aware of their own behavior and what it is communicating to their children. Yes, it's difficult. It will be even more difficult if one parent strives toward these goals and the other does not. Some days it will seem to be near impossible, yet that is what children need to be healthy. It is an honorable goal, and self-awareness is key.
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