Talking to Your Kids About Their Absent Parent

Absent parent - 2houses

Even under the best of circumstances, a parental separation can be incredibly emotional and confusing for kids. They’re used to seeing both parents at the dinner table and at soccer games. Then suddenly one parent is gone. It’s a huge adjustment, even if both parents remain involved in the kids’ lives. But when your partner disappears from your lives and doesn’t make an effort to see the kids, it falls to you to help them process this huge shift.

Explaining the Absence to Kids

Because you want to protect your child, your instincts might tell you to fudge the truth behind your ex-partner’s disappearance. It’s hard to tell them that Dad left because he cheated or that Mom moved away because she has an addiction. Wouldn’t it be easier to tell them that their parent left because of an exciting new job opportunity?

Maybe, but this strategy can backfire. Instead, separated parents should tell kids the truth in an age-appropriate way. Emphasize that the kids have no responsibility for the parent’s absence. “Daddy moved away because he fell in love with someone else and he decided to go live with her. He did that because he wanted to, not because of anything that you did wrong, and he still loves you so much.” You might even add: “Someday he will probably realize he made a mistake by not seeing you more. I’m so sorry that his decision is hurting you.”

Kids in this situation might worry that their remaining parent will abandon them too, especially if they misbehave. One parent left, what’s keeping you from going too? Tell them in no uncertain terms that you will never choose to leave, even if they’re messy or get bad grades.

Helping Kids Cope

Once your kids understand that the absent parent is really gone and isn’t reliable, they’ll need your support. You can’t fix the situation or make your ex become a better parent. What you can do is encourage the kids to express how they’re feeling.

If they’re angry, let them vent to you without trying to offer any solutions. Give them access to art and writing supplies and encourage them to express their feelings. Offer frequent affection and remind them often how lovable and wonderful they are. If you’re in a position to send your child to a therapist for a few sessions, offer that as an option too.

Does the other parent makes promises to come see the kids but often fails to show up? Make backup plans for those scheduled times. When Dad doesn’t arrive at noon like promised, spend the afternoon at the mall or at a park having fun. And be mindful to not badmouth the other parent, even after the person hurts your child by bailing. Calling your ex names or getting really emotional when talking about the situation may make your kids afraid to express their feelings.

Helping Yourself Cope

Separated parents who have primary custody are under a ton of pressure. You’re solely responsible for kids who are dealing with being hurt by their other parent. If you’re like a lot of people who find themselves in this situation, you probably feel overwhelmed and angry. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings – without making your kids feel responsible for fixing them. Ideally, you’ll talk to a therapist about everything that you’re juggling. If that’s not possible, schedule weekly vent sessions with a sympathetic friend.

And don’t forget that you’re not Superparent. You’ve got a lot going on – if the kids eat chicken nuggets every night and miss the occasional shower, celebrate how much you’re getting right instead of beating yourself up.

We know that separated parents have a lot of their plates. 2houses helps you manage it all. Give us a try for free!

Blended Family: How To Encourage The Kids To Like Each Other

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If you’re divorced with children and pursuing a relationship with someone who also has children, it’s not easy mixing your two families. After all, families are not built overnight! If you’re struggling to figure out how to encourage the kids to like each other, this article is for you.

1: Limit Your Expectations

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s unlikely that your kids will immediately form a strong familial bond with their step-siblings. That’s okay — some distance is normal and healthy — and trying to force friendships is a great way to alienate your children. It’s possible to encourage the children to like each other, but always temper your expectations with a dash of realism.

Remember, even blood siblings go through periods where they can barely tolerate each other! Expecting your newly blended family to become the best of friends is not particularly realistic.

2: Allow The Children Plenty Of Freedom

Be patient! It’s important to take things slow in a newly blended family — let the children discover common ground by themselves. If the children are especially young (under 10 years of age), they may adjust quicker than you expect.

Adolescents and teenagers may require more time to adjust to the new family dynamic and are not as open with expressing their emotions. That’s okay — teenagers have a lot going on — and it’s important to give them space.

The more you allow you and your partner’s children room to explore and develop their own relationships, the better.

blended family - 2houses

3: Plan Family Activities and Create Traditions

Family activities are great because they provide opportunities for communication. Fun family activities get both ‘sides’ of the family invested in forming new interpersonal relationships.

Great family activities include:

  • A house tour and ‘moving in’ game
  • Celebratory ice cream and movie night
  • Laser tag or another team-based activity (try children vs. adults, it’s always a blast)

The goal here is to get the children to communicate on topics that don’t seem like ‘work’. The more your children interact during fun, family-based activities, the quicker they’ll form meaningful connections.

New family traditions (or reinventing old ones) are an excellent way to get step-children invested in the family. If Sunday is pizza night, consider adding a twist (pizza and pie, perhaps) that makes it a new experience for everyone. The more your step-children become entwined in new traditions, the quicker they’ll bond.

4: Boundaries Matter

Sit down with your spouse and figure out some basic rules of conduct. Discipline is important — especially for young kids — but expecting a new stepfather to immediately begin disciplining his step-children is not realistic. Take the time to develop interpersonal bonds before moving to the role of disciplinarian.

Of course, rules must be applied fairly and consistently. Everyone must abide by the rules of your household, no matter who the biological parent is. Step-children get along much better if they know no one is playing favorites!

5: Become a Positive Role Model

Blending two families places incredible stress on your children. They feel pressured to form familial bonds with people they have no relation to — that’s not easy. Don’t underestimate the stress your children are experiencing.

Children love to emulate a positive, successful role model. Present yourself as a rational, fair, and likable new parent and you’ll be surprised at the results. Avoid talking about former spouses in a negative way and show the children that everything will work out.

Take A Breath

Blended families come with their own sets of challenges. Remember that you’re undergoing a challenge that millions of other families have already beaten. Give the children space, temper your expectations, and take the time to plan some fun regular family activities. The results will speak for themselves.

Co-parenting: How to Manage the First Christmas Without Dad or Mum

First Christmas Without Dad or Mum - 2houses

With divorce rates rising, many kids now experience Christmas without Dad or Mum. Many parents worry that Christmas with only one parent present will not be the same for their kids. If you are doing Christmas as a solo parent for the first time, here are some tips that can help.

How to Communicate With Kids About Christmas Without Dad or Mum

Many parents struggle with how to tell their child that they will be spending Christmas without Dad or Mum. However, it is very important to be upfront with children about Christmas plans. If you wait until Christmas is almost here to tell your child, they might be very disappointed. Let your kids know early about your co-parenting plans for Christmas.

Involve Dad or Mum If Possible

It might not be possible, or in fact desirable, for your kids to visit their Dad or Mum on Christmas Day. However, you can still include the absent parent. Arrange a Skype call so the kids can show off their new toys and wish Dad or Mum a merry Christmas. This is a great way to show kids that both their parents are thinking of them on this special day.

Make New Family Traditions

Sticking to the same Christmas routine you’ve always had might feel strange now Dad or Mum is absent. Instead of staring at the empty space around the dinner table, why not start a new family festive tradition? You could go to a restaurant for Christmas dinner or invite over friends or relatives to create a festive atmosphere. You could even take a trip away to make this holiday feel extra special.

Take the Time to Make Kids Feel Valued

If you are a busy single parent, it can be tough to give your kids all the time and attention they need. Sometimes, other priorities such as work have to come first. During the first Christmas without Dad or Mum, try to put other obligations on the back burner. This will allow you to spend time with your kids and reassure them that they are loved and valued. If possible, try to swap shifts at work so you can be with the kids as much as possible during this first co-parenting festive season.

Get Input From Kids

If you are worried about how to help your kids have a good time this Christmas, why not ask them what they want? Would they prefer a quiet Christmas at home with you, or a fun-filled adventure that breaks all the rules about how to celebrate? By giving kids input into the Christmas planning process, you can show them that you’re not only their parent but also their friend.

Get Advice From Others

If you know other separated families, you can ask them for advice about how to handle the first Christmas without Dad or Mum. Divorced parents can be a fantastic source of wisdom as they have been through the same challenges you face. Ask them for advice on creating new Christmas traditions and making the day as magical as possible for little ones.

Communicate With Your Co-Parent

Long before Christmas rolls around, make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page. If the kids are moving from one home to another over the festive period, you should both know exactly when pick-up or drop-off will take place. Using a co-parenting app such as 2houses can help to clarify plans to ensure Christmas is conflict-free.

Divorce and Children: 4 Signs You Can’t Ignore

divorce and children

The fact that divorce is super common isn’t comforting when your family is going through it. At least as one of the adults, you have some control over what’s happening. For your kids, watching you and your partner split up – even if the divorce is amicable, or ends a really contentious marriage – is probably at least a little traumatic.

So it’s totally normal to notice some changes in your kids during the months following a divorce. You’re dealing with a seismic shift in your own life, so things are changing for you too. But this can be a really scary and anxious time for children of all ages, and they’re extra vulnerable right after a divorce. Be on the lookout for these four potentially serious warning signs.

Their Behavior is Regressing

Regression just means that a kid is returning to a previous stage of development and behaving “younger” than they are. For example, a 4-year-old who has been potty trained for a year might regress and start having toilet accidents after her parents divorce. A child might also return to sucking his thumb or needing to sleep with a nightlight after having previously given up those behaviors.

If your child displays some regression, it could be a sign that she feels anxious and wants to go back to an earlier time when she felt safer. Offering plenty of affection and support, and not pushing her to “grow back up” too quickly, should help your child eventually feel ready to progress again. But if the regression lasts for more than a month or is very severe, contact your pediatrician.

They’re Unusually Depressed or Anxious

Feeling sad and nervous is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to divorce and children. This event will inevitably change things, and kids are rarely happy about that.

Depression and anxiety that interferes with your child’s ability to function, however, isn’t normal. For example, a severely depressed child might sleep much more than usual, seem disinterested in things he used to love and let his grades slip. An anxious kid might be unusually clingy, throw temper tantrums and become resistant about going to school. Take action if you notice behavior that could have a lasting negative impact on his health, friendships or academic career.

They’re Hurting Themselves

Kids who are in emotional turmoil sometimes express that pain by hurting themselves. Take seriously any signs of self-harm. These may include a child cutting, scratching or picking at her skin; burning herself; disordered eating (restricting food intake, binging and/or purging) and, in older children, drug and alcohol use. Immediately consult a school psychologist and your pediatrician if you notice signs of self-harm.

Another thing to watch for with divorce and children is faked or exaggerated illnesses or injuries. Sometimes a kid who wants to bring her divorced parents back together, or needs more attention than she’s getting, will try this ploy. That doesn’t mean you should assume every injury is fake, of course – but keep it in mind.

They’re Growing Up Too Fast

Having your child step up and help you more might sound like a dream, but some kids feel overly responsible for their parents after a divorce. Your child might try to fill in for the absent parent to make you happy or out of worry that the household will fall apart without a second adult around. Some newly divorced parents make the mistake of leaning too heavily on their kids for support, treating them like therapists or friends instead of children.

Divorce is already hard enough. Don’t let your child feel responsible for taking care of you. By all means, encourage your kids to do age-appropriate chores and take on tasks that they can manage! Just be careful to make sure they know that you’re the adult and will take care of things so they can still focus on being kids.

As A Co-parent, How To Keep In Touch With Your Child While He’s Not Home

keep in touch while your child is not home - 2houses

Separation is never easy and that’s doubly true when it comes to communicating with your child. If you’re a co-parent, there’s plenty of options for staying in touch with your child when he’s away. Modern technology has made communication easier than ever before!

It’s About More Than Technology

It’s completely natural to want to stay in regular contact with your children while they are away. That said, you’ll want to strike a balance between constant contact and unlimited freedom. Think about from your former spouse’s point of view: would you want your ex calling the kids every few hours when it’s ‘your’ turn?

The last thing you want to do is hover too closely. It’s co-parenting after all: let the kids have their time with their other parents! Allowing the children to stretch their legs with their co-parent is both normal and healthy.

The first step in keeping in touch with your children while they are away is to establish a set of ground rules with your former spouse. For example:

  • Decide whether you’ll opt for scheduled calls
  • Set limits (how much time spent communicating with the away parent is too much)
  • Decide how you’ll handle communication on longer visits

Schedule Regular Phone Calls

It might seem like sacrilege to the younger generations, but phones are for more than just texting. Setting up a regularly scheduled phone call for your children is a great way to remain a consistent fixture in their lives. For example, if you have a 50/50 custody agreement, a phone call every few days is usually more than enough.

Opt For A Video Call

Voice calls work wonders, but seeing someone’s face puts the conversation on an entirely new level. It’s never been easier to set up a video call — consider FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger — so feel free to embrace this technology. Your children will thank you for it!

Texting Is Consistent

Texting is a way of life and for good reason: it’s convenient! Regular contact via text is simple, flexible, and adequate for most pedestrian conversations. Texting is far less intense than a phone call and is inherently casual. As such, it’s great for keeping in touch on minor details (“How was the movie?”) and doesn’t detract from the co-parents time with the kids.

Of course, it can be tempting to overreach when it comes to texting and expect a constant flurry of messages. Try your best to avoid this — no one likes a helicopter parent — and remember that your ex’s time is just as valuable as yours. The more freedom and leeway you afford the children, the better the relationship.

Bring Your Former Partner Into The Mix

Imagine setting up a board game for a night in only to find your kids having a video chat with your former partner. Surprises like that are unwelcome on both sides of the co-parenting coin!

Take the time to introduce your co-parent to the ways in which technology can be used to keep in touch. Establishing firm boundaries is a great way to ensure that technology helps (and doesn’t detract) your parenting relationship. For example, try avoiding phone calls during overnight visits where you might induce a sense of homesickness. Likewise, avoid asking too much about your former partner during conversations: focus on the children, not your ex.

Keeping In Touch Shouldn’t Be A Chore

When it comes to staying in touch with your children while they are away from home, keep it casual. Talk to your former partner and establish a set of ground rules and go from there. Between phone calls, video chats, and texting, there’s plenty of ways to keep in touch.

Make sure to respect your co-parent’s parenting time and your children will love you all the more for it!

Guiding Children On Social Media

Guiding children on social media - 2houses

Today’s youth is growing up in a world dominated by social media. Online social networks aren’t just a fad or passing fancy: they’ve completed redefined the nature of modern social interaction. While the platform may change (MySpace, anyone?), the message is clear: online social networks are here to stay.

But how do we guide children in the use of these social networks? This article will explore some ‘best practices’ for keeping your children safe online.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Regardless of the platform, social media is a fact of life. Today’s teens nearly all have smartphones and at least three-quarters of teens use at least one social media platform. With that in mind, it’s important to have some reasonable expectations.

Don’t expect your children to not have any social media presence. It’s unrealistic, impractical, and likely impossible to enforce. When it comes to children with divorced parents, this becomes even more significant. Imagine a situation where one parent decides social media is fine and the other forbids it! There’s no better way to breed discontent, anger, and frustration between parents and children.

Limits Are Great

That said, setting limits is part of great parenting. Some parents opt for (arguably) fairly intrusive rules, such as forbidding the use of personal electronics in the bedroom. Instead of that rather draconian approach, consider establishing rules for the common areas of the home. For example, no phone use during family meals is a great way to teach your children about reasonable limits.

Educate On Policies

Children, especially teens, may have difficulty understanding the impact of their actions online. You want to teach your children to be a good digital citizen. Put simply, a good digital citizen is someone who uses the Internet and social media responsibly.

Digital Footprints

Digital content is just as real as something you hold in your hand. Spoken words, in contrast, can be forgotten, misheard, or ignored. When it comes to social media, teach your children that their digital footprint — all the comments, posts, accounts, and so on — they leave on the Internet is forever. Once something is online, there’s no telling who has seen it or what records of it exist.

Examples can help with this. Rolling Stone published an article back in 2015 detailing 15 different examples of people ruining their lives because of social media posts. Granted, the examples they use are pretty extreme, but the lesson is there: anything you post online is available for the world to see. The more your children understand the potential impact that online posts can have, the better.

Privacy Settings

While your children should understand that nothing they post online is truly ever secret, there are ways to protect their privacy. Sit down with your children and show them the different privacy settings available on social media platforms.

As a general rule, no social media platform for a minor should ever be set to ‘public.’ You’ll want to help your children go through their accounts and set the privacy to as high as can be.

Stress Communication

Social media can be a scary place. Cyber bullying, for example, is rapidly becoming one of the principal ways teens experience bullying. Your children may find it difficult to communicate these concerns to you. Remember to stress to your children that digital bullying is just as real as physical intimidation.

Cyberbullying aside, emphasize to your children that they should immediately tell you if they ever feel they are in danger. It’s a sad reality that predatory behavior exists online, especially with regards to youths. Your children should never feel ashamed or embarrassed that someone online is sending inappropriate messages.

Guiding Children Takes Honesty

In the end, the best way to educate your children on social media is to be honest. Tell them that, in today’s world, digital words are just as real as spoken ones. Stress that social media, just like any other place in the real world, has its own set of dangers. The more that you educate your children on becoming good digital citizens, the better equipped they will be moving forward.

Encouraging Your Child to Go Back to School

back to school is never easy for a child - 2houses
Unless you’ve recently found a functioning magic wand, getting your kids genuinely excited to go back to school might not be a realistic goal. It’s the rare kid who prefers math homework to sleeping in and playing outdoors, and everything’s a little more complicated for families of divorce. That doesn’t mean that this period has to be miserable for everyone. You and your kids can get through the back-to-school season in one piece, with a little preparation.

Get Parents on the Same Page

The start of the school year is a chaotic time for all families. Divorced and separated parents have extra challenges. Something as minor as communicating about a new school policy can be tough when you’re apart. If the kids sense that their parents aren’t on the same team about school stuff, it could add to their dread about going back to the classroom.
Both parents should read all communication from the school and raise any questions or concerns. Next, create a shared calendar that includes details like what time the kids wake up, eat and go to bed. This is especially useful if you have a strained relationship and prefer to communicate virtually. Discuss rules relating to screen time, homework time, food and socializing so you can (hopefully) create some basic ground rules around these things.
Does one parent lives too far away to be part of the kids’ day-to-day life? Coordinate with the school so that you both get all communication from teachers and staff. Still create that shared calendar, too. The remote parent should always know what’s going on with school. That way, he or she can back up your decisions and have meaningful conversations with the kids.

Adjust the Routines

Unless your family stays on a school schedule all year, back-to-school season calls for making some adjustments. Kids who have been waking up at 8 a.m. won’t be at their best if they’re suddenly required to get up at 6 a.m.
Prepare them for a smooth back-to-school transition by making minor adjustments to their schedules. Gradually shift bedtimes and wake-up times. Ask them to do 30 minutes of reading per day. Require them to pick out their clothes at night. If little kids are eating lunch at home right now, start serving it in lunch boxes to get them used to eating that way.
Again, getting your co-parent on board is one of the most important factors in determining how smoothly this goes. You could spend all week inching up bedtimes for your school-bound kids. All that effort won’t matter if your ex lets them stay up until midnight the next week.

Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Some kids struggle more with school than others, so it’s disingenuous to promise them that they’re going to love going back to school. But what you can do is give them some positive association with the idea of going to school again.
You might devise a reward system tied to performance, which allows them to earn things they really want by making a good effort in school. In the week leading up to the first day, wrap a series of small toys or gifts and give kids one each day. Get slightly more exciting first-day-of-school gifts and organize an after-school party on the first day. Plan a fun activity for the first weekend of school, too. Even just a pajamas-and-movies party at home could be a special treat.
If all else fails, help your glum kids get some perspective. Tell them that they have to get through school on their way to the rest of their lives. Talk about what they want to do when they’re adults, and why going to school is a necessary step on that ladder. Remembering that school is just temporary should comfort a kid who’s dreading going back.

Cooking With Kids: 3 Simple Recipes to Try

cooking with kids - 2houses
Getting kids involved with food preparation has tons of benefits. Cooking with kids helps them practice math, learn to love healthy foods and develop self-care skills that they’ll need someday. Plus, it gives you all a chance to spend quality time together.
Choosing recipes that will work for you and your kids depends on their ages, your kitchen setup and your family’s dietary restrictions. These simple recipe ideas are a good starting point.

Sweet Smoothies

Technically, of course, there’s no cooking involved with making smoothies. That’s what makes this is a perfect first project for little ones or kids who are new to the kitchen. Each child can choose and prep the ingredients for his or her smoothie. Offer a few base ingredients, like plain Greek yogurt or juice, plus a bunch of add-ins. Bananas, berries, peaches, mango, nut butters, kale, spinach, mint, tofu, avocado, milk, cinnamon and cocoa powder are all potential options.
Have kids do things like wash and cut fruit, measure ingredients and add them to the blender. Start with equal parts of your base ingredient and add-ins, add a handful of ice and make adjustments from there. An adult may need to operate the blender itself. Let kids taste the smoothie after each addition of a new ingredient. They’ll learn a lot about flavors and balance.

Crowd-Pleasing Pizzas

Making pizza dough from scratch takes hours from start to finish. If the family schedule allows, do it anyway. Homemade dough is simple to assemble and most yeast packages have a specific recipe. Kids can measure dry ingredients, mix yeast with water, then stir and knead the dough.
Of course, cooking with kids takes enough time as it is. If you want, opt for a store-bought crust, or use naan or packaged bread dough. Kids can make their own tomato sauce using canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a little tomato paste and seasonings including oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes or until the onions are soft.
Finally, let kids prepare their own pizzas. They can roll the dough, spread the sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese and pick their own vegetable toppings. In most ovens, cooking a pizza until the cheese is browned only takes about 15 minutes.

Easy Grilled Skewers

Cooking with kids shouldn’t take hours or they’ll get restless. Having them make their own kebabs or skewers is a quick way to get kids fed. They can play with their food, and each kid can customize a meal that he or she will actually eat.
Cut chicken or another meat into ice-cube-size chunks. Cut hearty vegetables like peppers, onions, zucchini and sweet potato into chunks of the same size. Whole cherry tomatoes work too. Let kids season the ingredients. Just salt and pepper might be enough for one kid’s tastes; another might prefer to rub meat with a spicy marinade or a sticky soy sauce glaze.
Next, let kids push the pieces onto simple wooden or metal skewers. You or another adult should handle the actual grilling, unless you’re cooking with an older teen. Simply cook the skewers on the grill or grill pan, turning each skewer every few minutes to cook all sides. Once the meat is cooked to the safe level of doneness, they’re ready to eat.
Kids can complete a meal of grilled skewers by mixing up simple dipping sauces. Try homemade ranch made with Greek yogurt, a sweet-and-sour honey lime dip or a smooth cheese sauce with melted cheddar.
Alternately, use this prep idea to entice kids to eat more fruit. Have them push chunks of pineapple, peach and banana chunks onto their skewers. Grill them until they’re lightly browned and have kids make a dipping sauce of yogurt, orange juice and a pinch of brown sugar.

Travel Plans for Separated Parents: Navigating Holidays and Joint Custody

holidays and joint custody - 2houses
Of all the potential conflicts that co-parents have to contend with, vacation and travel schedules are one of the trickiest. You might have a dream trip in mind – but if the other parent objects to the timing and itinerary, someone’s going to end up being unhappy. Co-parents who don’t handle this conflict well risk making the kids miserable and missing out on incredible memories.

First: Consult the Experts

If you and your ex have a formal custody agreement, it’s essential to refer to it before finalizing any plans. Your specific agreement and the custody laws in your state and/or country will play a big role in determining what happens around holidays and joint custody. This is an important step not just because of the legal issues, but also because of the potential for conflict here. If the potential travel plans aren’t allowed, hearing that from an attorney or legal document might help keep the disappointed parent from blaming the other parent.

Next: Analyze Your Proposed Plans

Taking the kids for a two-month trip around the world would be a life-changing, unforgettable experience for all of you – but it would be unfair to the parent who normally has the kids every other week. When there’s some discord between you around holidays and joint custody, bringing your ex a reasonable proposal is critical. Taking the other parent’s feelings and schedule into account demonstrates respect and a willingness to work together.
Analyze your holiday plans from the other person’s perspective. For example, are you planning to spend a ton of money on an extravagant trip, while the other parent struggles to make ends meet? In that case, the ex might feel resentful or be nervous about the kids preferring time with the richer parent. Making a more modest plan might help win them over. Or, if you want to take the kids away for three weeks and you know your ex would miss them terribly, amend your proposal to two weeks.
Also consider what your co-parent will miss out on with the kids while they’re away. If you’ll be taking them during time that she would normally be with them, propose a way for her to make up that time. Be prepared to trade something that’s important to you, too. If you want to take the kids over one of your ex’s summer weeks, you might have to give up Christmas week to get permission.

Finally: Make an Appeal

Instead of approaching holiday scheduling braced for a fight, approach it like a friendly conversation. (That said, email works fine for this if you have a strained relationship!) Even if you already mentioned your holiday plans, go back to your co-parent now to have a conversation about details.
Lay out your entire holiday proposal. Provide an itinerary. If you made any modifications for your ex’s benefit, explain those too. Be sure to build safety and communication plans into your holiday proposal: provide emergency contact numbers, propose a daily video chat call, lay out rules you’ll enforce on the trip, and so forth.
If your co-parent is resistant to your plans, appeal to their sympathy by explaining why these holiday plans are important to you. If there are specific benefits for the kids, point those out too. Will they get a chance to practice a second language? Learn about another culture? Get to connect with a rarely-seen grandparent? Help your ex understand that these holiday plans aren’t a ploy to hurt them or take the kids away, but that they have real value for the kids.

Summer Holidays: Managing Conflicting Days Off

Summer holidays and joint custody - 2ouses

Holidays can be tricky for parents with joint custody. After all, many companies do not let you take vacations whenever you want! If you’re struggling to figure out what to do with your children during your holiday (but not theirs), this article is for you.

The Old Standby: The Visitation Schedule

Your custodian agreement likely has a clearly delineated visitation schedule. That said, it’s rare to see a custodial agreement that doesn’t include flexibility for trades, swaps, or other scheduling changes. If you’re struggling to figure out how to handle having your holiday when the kids are still in school, this is the first move.

summer holidays
Mom and son

The more you communicate with your former partner about your desire to spend time with the kids, the better. Be open to swapping weekends or even entire holiday seasons if that’s what it takes. For example, if you’re forced to take your vacation the month before the summer holidays begin, ask to swap possession during those few weeks. If your former partner is proving reticent, consider sweetening the pot: throw in some extended weekend visits.

The goal here is to work within the confines of the existing joint custody agreement to produce the best result for everyone. The more you can achieve with talking, the better.

Bring the Kids Along (Virtually)

If your children aren’t home (and you are taking your holidays), use your free time! For example, consider asking your former partner if it’s possible to do regular video calls with the kids. If physical possession is out of the question, bring the kids along in a virtual sense.

camera and holidays
A vintage camera with vintage photos

Nearly everyone has some combination of smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer. It’s easy as pie to video call the kids daily while you’re off surfing in Hawaii or exploring the streets of Europe. If the time zones don’t line up, or if the kids are busy, record short videos of your vacation adventures. The kids can watch them when they have the time and you’ll remain a constant presence in their life.

Consider Offering Your Own Time

Parenting is the busiest profession in the world, bar none. Taking the kids from soccer practice to band practice to chess club takes time that your former partner may not have. If you’d prefer to spend some of your summer holidays with your kids, offer to make your former partner’s life a bit easier.

Holidays as mono parent
Dad and his daughter at the sea.

Of course, this depends entirely on your joint custody agreement. Your current relationship with your ex certainly comes into play as well. That said, an amicable offer goes a long way: offering to take the kids to soccer practice (followed by ice cream) might give your former spouse a few precious hours they desperately need.

Talk Early, Talk Often

It’s a sad reality that joint custody parenting often focuses more on managing your relationship with your former partner than anything else. The more you talk, the better the outcome for those pesky holiday schedules. Take the time to work out a clear summer holiday schedule as far in advance as possible. The sooner you know there will be a scheduling conflict during your holiday, the better!

Managing Summer Holidays

It’s not fun to find out that you’re forced to take vacation days away from your children. If it happens, take the time to communicate your desires to the other parent and see if an agreement can be reached. If there’s no way to change the vacation schedule, see if it’s possible to volunteer some time here and there. And, of course, phone calls, video chats, and short video clips never go amiss.

It’s not an ideal situation, but use these tips and make the best of it!