One of the hardest parts about going through a divorce? Figuring out how to work through it in a healthy way that strengthens and builds your children, rather than the other way around.
The most vulnerable and unwilling participants in this journey, they’re the ones who feel the brunt of the impact when spouses can’t get along. However, there is a way to help mitigate conflict and establish order and routine.
Assuming you have shared custody, it all centers on setting firm parenting time guidelines.
In short, this is a pre-determined schedule that dictates the time that each parent has with the shared children. While you might have a schedule built upon their school calendar that works for most of the year, what happens when they get out for the summertime? This change in routine doesn’t have to throw your balancing act off-kilter.
Today, we’re sharing a few strategies you can use to establish parenting time guidelines that allow your children to soak up plenty of sunshine and family time this season.
Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.
Determine the Summer Break Timeframe
Before you can get into the nitty-gritty of the summer visitation schedule, you and your ex will have to determine exactly when the summer schedule will begin and end.
Most parents choose to base this timeline off their children’s official school schedule. If you have this available, it’s wise to reference and use it, as this will pose as little disruption to their normal routine as possible.
If you go this route, you have two options:
- Choose exact start and end dates for each summer
- Choose general dates that extend to every summer
A schedule built around the first bullet might look like:
- Summer break begins at 4:00 p.m. on May 29, 2020 (last day of school) and ends at 8:00 a.m. on September 7, 2020 (first day of school).
On the other hand, a schedule built around the second bullet might look like:
- Summer break begins on the last Friday in May and ends on the first Monday in September.
Do you notice the difference? The first is more rigid while the other allows for some flexibility with dates. For instance, the first Monday in September 2020 is September 7, but the following year, it falls on September 6.
Whichever option you choose, be careful to avoid terms such as “the middle of the summer.” While you could do the calculations and determine the exact mid-point, that verbiage is vague and ambiguous. In fact, most people casually select July 4 as the mid-point of the summer although that isn’t always accurate.
When you’re a parent splitting your time with your children, you want the schedule to be as even and fair as possible. Rather than relying on paper-based calendars, try using online scheduling tools to create and share the schedule virtually.
That said, what are some ways you can creatively and effectively split your time during the summer? The good news is that without having to plan around school, you have more options than you would at any other time of the year.
Let’s take a look at a few approaches to try.
Swap Your Normal Schedule
Does your child currently live with mom during the week, with visits to dad’s house occurring every other weekend?
If so, consider swapping this schedule. That way, dad would have the child during the week and mom would have custody every other weekend. This is a simple way to give the other spouse a break and inject a little fun into a standard routine. In addition, by keeping the visits set at every other weekend, parents can plan weeklong vacations that spill into the next weekend without having to make a change to the schedule!
Create a Totally New Schedule
The residential schedule that you maintain throughout the year doesn’t have to be the same one that you keep during the summer! If both parents are flexible and agreeable to a change, why not consider creating an entirely new routine for a few months?
This can be any arrangement that works for everyone. For instance, you might establish a two weeks on/two weeks off schedule wherein one parent gets the children for two weeks at a time. Or, you could try a more intricate schedule, such as a 2-2-3 rotation.
Here, the kids will be with one parent for two days, then with the other parent for two days, and then back to the first parent to enjoy a three-day weekend. If you keep the same pattern going, the other parent will have the kids on the next three-day weekend.
While this setup can work if all parties are on the same page, keep in mind that all of the back-and-forth shuffling can be confusing and overwhelming for everyone involved, especially for small children. Longer spans of time together allow them to feel more settled and secure, so if possible, try to block off individual portions of time that are at least a week or longer.
Grant Full Summertime Custody to One Parent
Of course, another scheduling alternative is to allow one parent to exercise full custody during the pre-determined summer timeline. If this is the same parent that has the children the majority of the time during the rest of the year, it’s important to communicate this schedule early to make sure the extended timeline is a good fit.
Plan Around Family Vacations
Has one parent been busy planning an epic trip to Disneyworld in June while the other can’t wait to take the brood fly fishing in August? Though you’ll need to come up with another scheduling tactic to cover the remainder of the summer, you can begin by talking about those vacation plans.
As long as they don’t overlap or create a conflict, each parent can take the kids on the vacation of his or her choosing.
For instance, you might already have an every-weekend schedule in place for the summer, where the child visits dad every weekend. While that can work for most of May through September, you can block off a two-week section for mom only during July to make those Disneyworld memories. The same holds true for the fly fishing trip in August.
This will require maturity on both ends, as (based on the length of the vacation) it will likely require at least one parent to sacrifice previously scheduled time with the children.
You can also take a different approach while setting up your initial residential schedule that will cover the entire year. Instead of blocking off specific dates during the summer months for vacation, you can give each parent an allotment of days for such excursions.
For example, you might set the following precedences:
- Dad can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.
- Mom can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.
If you do this, make sure to set guidelines around notifications. For instance, the vacationing parent must inform the other parent at least 30 days in advance of each vacation. In turn, the other parent has up to five days to respond if the proposed getaway will present a conflict in his or her schedule.
Helpful Tips to Successfully Co-Parent This Summer
Specific schedules aside, how can you make sure that the summer timelines you’ve set for your ex will lead to the best outcomes for everyone in your family? Let’s take a look at a few steps you can take before that final school bell rings to get everyone on the same page.
Communicate and Plan Ahead
Communication is the cornerstone of every healthy marriage and every healthy divorce.
The more that you and your ex can talk about the months coming up, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to come to an agreement that works well for you both. Rather than avoiding the topic, go ahead and address it as soon as possible.
That way, you’re able to work around concerns such as vacations and family get-togethers, proactively scheduling your time to accommodate the things that matter to you. That way, there are minimal surprise events that suddenly pop up and change the whole family’s plans.
Talk with your ex and come to an agreement on how you’re going to divide your time with the children. Putting off the conversation or shrugging off its importance could result in a major amount of stress a few weeks down the road. Even if you don’t want to create a super-rigid schedule, you can at least establish a flexible one that has some form of structure.
Keep the Kids a Top Priority
As much as you’d love to be able to plan the summer of your dreams, keep in mind that this is one of the most magical times of the year for your children. Free from the stressors of school, they’re able to play outside, explore with friends and make the kinds of memories that last a lifetime.
That means it’s your duty to make the split schedule work as seamlessly as possible. To do so, include them in the conversation!
Talk to your kids and ask them what they would like to do this summer. Take their needs into account, including both younger children who are totally dependent on you and older ones who are more self-sufficient. Then, to the greatest extent possible, work with your ex to take everyone’s desires and wishes into consideration.
If your ex wants to take the kids on an incredible cruise, don’t hold a grudge or try to get in the way of it. Remember who ultimately benefits from this trip: your children!
That said, encourage them to go and wish them well. Encourage your kids to have fun during their time away from you, so they can see that their happiness means more to you than your disagreements with your ex-spouse. Let them know that you want them to have a loving and healthy relationship with both of their parents, and you’re working to make sure that happens.
If they sense even a little tension or sadness on your part, kids can feel guilty and even hesitant to go on the trip. Reassure them that you love them and support them, and you can’t wait to hear all about the trip when they get back.
At the same time, be equally respectful when you’re the one booking the vacation.
Make sure that your spouse is fully up-to-date on all of the details of your itinerary so he or she knows where the kids will be at all times. Think of the details that you would want to know yourself, and make sure to include them! For instance, your ex should always know how to contact your child so don’t leave those details out!
A Note on Childcare
If both parents work full-time, the children will spend the majority of their summer days at daycare, camp or both. Decide ahead of time who is going to coordinate and organize those activities.
If possible, each parent can be responsible for picking the kids up and dropping them off at those locales when he or she has custody of them. If there are attendance costs to pay, decide ahead of time if and how those should be paid.
Establish Successful Parenting Time Guidelines This Summer
The summer is meant to be one of the most laidback and enjoyable times of the year. If you’re a divorced or separated parent, however, it can quickly turn into one of the most stressful ones.
To kick the unknowns to the curb, schedule parenting time guidelines that leave no question as to how your children will split their time off. The earlier you can take this step, the more pleasant the following months will be!
Are you a single parent working to help your children grow accustomed to splitting their time between two homes? We know how difficult that can be, and we’re here to help.
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