Yours, Mine and Ours: How to Blend Two Families

Blend families

Many divorces involve children, and many of those divorced parents will go on to remarry — very likely to someone who also already has children of their own. While the Brady Bunch is a great TV show, it’s not a realistic model for what the process of creating a blended family looks like in real life. It can take many years to navigate all of the challenges that come with a blended family and to build positive, respectful relationships between everyone, but it is possible. Find out more in this guide.

Step-Parenting and Blended Families

When it comes to step-parents, the stigmas are strong. On one end of the spectrum you have the wicked stepmother (or stepfather) scenario that would paint step-parents as jealous, controlling and even abusive when it comes to their stepchildren — seemingly trying to push the children out so they can be the only thing important to the other parent. Luckily, this is more television and movie fodder than it is real life. 

Most step-parents very much want to have a positive relationship with their stepchildren and look forward to building a new family unit that blends the best of both sides into something even better. However, it usually isn’t this simple even in the best of situations and with the best of intentions. 

The truth is that step-parenting is difficult. You don’t have the inherent bond that you have with your biological children, and in some cases, you may be seen as a potential threat to the child’s relationship with their biological parent or a replacement for their parent’s ex-spouse. In order to make the transition from two families to one as smooth as possible, it’s important to be aware of both the challenges and potential strategies you can use to build positive relationships and a strong family unit. 

The Challenges of Blended Families

When it comes to taking two separate families and trying to turn it into one, it can sometimes feel more like trying to mix water and oil. You’re taking two very separate family units, with different traditions, different rules and different dynamics, and trying to create something entirely new. Here are a few of the potential pitfalls to be aware of as you navigate this process.

Differences in Parenting Styles

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of all. Chances are that you and your new spouse have had years of raising your children and have your own specific parenting style when it comes to what’s allowed, what’s not and what you do when someone breaks the rules. For example, if you’re OK with your children watching R rated movies but your new spouse thinks that anything rated higher than PG is a no, this presents issues when it comes to family movie nights or what movies children are allowed to see with friends.

Differences in parenting styles also commonly show up when it comes to discipline. If you and your new spouse have had different house rules or expectations when it comes to chores, how the family members interact with each other or what punishments are appropriate, it can quickly become a point of contention if it’s not dealt with.

Difficult Co-Parents

While there are plenty of stories out there about how new spouses and ex-spouses are able to get along very well and may even be friends, this doesn’t always happen. In some cases, the children’s biological parent may see you as a threat to their relationship with their children and try to undermine you as a step-parent. Feeling like you constantly have to defend yourself or dealing with antagonistic interactions at every school function or visitation pickup can get very taxing very quickly and put stress on both your relationship with your step-children as well as your new spouse. Keeping communication in writing and ensuring everyone has access to family calendars and the like through an app like 2houses can help.

Diverse Personalities

Every person is unique, and this is certainly true for children. And while there’s no guarantee that your personality meshes with your own biological children, you do have the benefit of the magnitude of parental love and years of experience learning how to deal with them. When you are faced with a personality clash between a step-parent and step-child, it can be very challenging to develop and maintain a positive relationship.

4 Tips for Successful Step-Parenting

While it’s possible that you may never have the same type of relationship with your step-children as you have with your biological children, that doesn’t mean that you should just give up and bide your time until the children are out of the house. There are many things you can do personally and as a family to help create a more positive step-parenting relationship. Here are just a few of your tips for getting things moving in a better direction. 

1. Take It Slow

Remember that even though you and your new spouse have decided to start a family together that your respective children probably didn’t have that same input. If they aren’t happy about the change, it’s important to realize like they may feel like it is entirely out of their control and may feel like it is something that is forced on them. With this in mind, the focus should be on taking it slow and giving everyone plenty of grace. 

It’s normal to want everything to blend seamlessly quickly, but the reality is that this is rarely what actually happens. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can actually take several years for everyone to adjust to the changes in the family structure and for the two families to actually start to “blend.” By thinking of this as a marathon and not a sprint, it can help you keep the proper long-game perspective and help you notice and celebrate more of the smaller wins and progress instead of focusing on the ongoing challenges.

2. Present a United Front

While it’s likely that each family has had their own traditions, rules and ways of relating to each other, all of this has to adjust when the two families come together. This means there will be times when a middle of the road compromise is available and others when one side has to “win.” One of the best things you can do to help make that transition easier is to make sure that you’re presenting a united front with your new spouse.

If possible, take some time to discuss how you’re going to handle things before they arise, so that you are able to present that united front in the moment. In situations where that’s not possible, it’s a good idea to go with whatever the first parent to respond says and then talk about it with your spouse later away from the children to discuss both viewpoints and how you can compromise and adjust for when that issue comes up again. 

For example, maybe you let your step-child buy a candy bar at the grocery store, but you found out when you got home that your spouse wanted them to wait until after dinner to have sweets. In this case, going ahead with what the step-parent said and then having a parents-only discussion afterward to come to a compromise moving forward is the best solution that ensures both sides are heard and a compromise is made without undermining the step-parent’s decision in front of the children. 

3. Respect That Each Child Is Different

One of the great things about children is that they all have different strengths and character traits that make them completely unique individuals. However, this also means that in a blended family with more than one child, you’re probably going to be dealing with different perspectives and adjustments from each child. One child might immediately take to the new partner while another needs more time to warm up and accept the change. 

One of the best things you can do as a new step-parent or a biological parent trying to make the blended family transition as smooth as possible is to accept that each child will handle the new situation differently and respect that. Encourage the children who are happy and excited about the move and give those who aren’t plenty of time and space to process things in their own time and way.

4. Embrace the Chaos

Anytime you are putting two families into one, there is a lot of change, and it’s probably going to be chaotic and imperfect for a while — and possibly forever. By embracing the change, you open the door to welcome challenges as opportunities to grow and bond together and set a good example for children who may not yet have the tools and resources to cope.

Success Strategies for Becoming a Stepdad

Becoming a stepdad

Dating is never easy, but when you’re dating someone who already has children, the stakes are even higher. Once you realize that it’s time to take things to the next level and start considering marriage, you may have some questions and concerns about what it means to be a stepfather and what you can do to be a good one. Your new spouse — or soon to be — and their kids are a package deal, so it’s important to do all you can to be a positive influence and role model. Here are some of our best strategies for becoming a successful stepdad.

Potential Pitfalls

While you may not officially be a stepdad until you say “I do,” the work you put into the relationship with the kids from the first day you meet them is crucial to your success. Being more aware of the potential issues and challenges that can crop up as a step-dad is important if you want to stay ahead of those challenges and be proactive in cultivating a positive relationship with your children. Here are a few things to be on the lookout for.

1. Resentment From the Children

Even if you’re a great guy with the best of intentions and do everything right from the start, you still might have to contend with resentment from the children. From their perspective it can feel like you’re a threat to their relationship with their biological parent, taking some of the time and energy that the kids see as could have been spent on them. You may also be a visual reminder that their parents have separated and really aren’t going to get back together — a fantasy many children of divorce hold on to.

2. Differences in Parenting Styles

Another challenge that often affects blended families is the difference in parenting styles. This may be especially true if you also have children and have developed a specific parenting style and method of relating to and disciplining your kids. For example, if your partner thinks it’s fine for the children to stay up as late as they want on the weekends but you think bedtime should still be enforced, it can be hard to get on the same page and present a united front to the children. Other potential areas that can be issues if you have different parenting styles include the level of responsibility expected from the kids when it comes to household chores, what consequences should happen if a child gets in trouble and what to do if a child is struggling academically.

3. The “Not My Dad” Problem

Even if you have a positive relationship with your step-children, the “not my dad” card can still come up when things get challenging — especially in the teenage years. While you are an authority figure in the child’s life, the truth is that the child is right: you aren’t their dad. And that can make it harder to walk the line when it comes to discipline, respect and being taken seriously. 

4. Dealing With the Bio Dad

In some cases, you may be the only father figure in the picture (which can sometimes be easier but comes with challenges of its own), but in many, you will have to learn how to deal with the children’s biological father. If you’re lucky, the dad will be a good guy who wants to be involved with his kid and is at least accepting of you if not outright welcoming. However, many stepdads have to deal with bio dads who don’t want them in the picture and actively try to sabotage their relationships with the children and their partner.

4 Strategies for Success

After reading over that list of potential pitfalls, you may be thinking either “yikes, I hadn’t thought of that!” or “OK, yes, I’m already dealing with this,” but the big question is “What do I do about it?” The good news is that there are specific strategies you can use to help create and maintain a positive relationship with your stepchildren. We’ve focused on four core areas below.

1. Focus on the Positive

It’s easy to get frustrated with your own biological children when they have attitudes, are throwing temper tantrums or aren’t obeying the rules. But it’s even easier when the child isn’t “yours.” One thing that can really help during these times is to keep the focus on the positive and ignore the negative as much as you can. For example, maybe you can ignore a sarcastic remark a child says under their breath as they walk up the stairs and at the same time remind yourself of last weekend when they curled up on the couch with you to watch a movie. Or when they pull the “not my dad” line, remember that time they gave you a handmade father’s day card with a special note inside.

It may even be helpful to keep a special box or notebook or even just a folder of pictures in your phone that documents the positives so that you have something tangible to remind yourself of when there’s a bad day.

2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Open, honest, respectful communication is key to any relationships, and this is definitely true when it comes to your relationship with your step-children. It can be a difficult line to walk between “I’m here for you” and coming across as overbearing, but it’s worth taking up the challenge. You can help foster open communication by taking an active interest in your step-children’s lives and the things that are important to them. Make a point to remember that they had a big spelling test today. Show up at the soccer game. Learn to play chess. Knowing enough about their interests and likes and dislikes to carry on a meaningful conversation and ask the right questions can go a long way toward showing them that you care and are invested in their lives and success.

It’s also equally as important to keep those lines of communication open with your partner. Even when you love someone, it can be difficult to accept someone else parenting your child or having an opinion on your child. Having regular conversations with your partner — schedule them if you need to — about how things are going and any issues that have come up can give you an easy open forum to ensure you catch any resentfulness, hurt or misunderstanding before it becomes a bigger problem.

3. Be a Role Model

The old adage “you have to give respect to get respect” is definitely true when it comes to step-parenting. One of the best things you can do for your relationship with your step-children is to model the behavior you want from them. Treat them with respect, give them grace when they mess up and remember that everyone is human. For example, if you think it’s disrespectful for a child to be sarcastic toward you, make a point not to be sarcastic to them. If you have an issue with how they are treating you and acting toward you, make sure that you continue to model positive behavior even when you are frustrated or don’t feel like it. Consistency in how you treat the children and what you expect from them can go a long way toward building a relationship.

4. Give It Time

Relationships take time. This is true for romantic relationships, and it’s also very true when you are trying to build relationships with someone else’s kids. Children of divorce in particular often really need to see that you’re going to be a permanent fixture in their lives and need to see that you are going to continue to be a positive person for them. It’s common for children to believe that if they can just be difficult enough they can scare you away or to believe that since their parents split up, it’s inevitable that you will leave too and so it’s not worth investing in the relationship. Sometimes, when the children see that they can’t scare you away and that you aren’t leaving, they settle down very quickly and do a complete 180 in how they treat and interact with you. Remembering that being a stepdad is a long game can help you keep perspective.

The bottom line is that even if your stepkids don’t take to you right away or even actively express their displeasure at the new family dynamics, that doesn’t stop you from being able to give your best effort as a stepdad. Being a good step-parent is a long game, and the effort, consistency and respect you put in now is likely to pay off in dividends later.

I’m Afraid to Make My Mom or Dad Sad: Dealing With Children’s Fears and Insecurities

I'm Afraid to Make My Mom or Dad Sad

While we usually think of the parent comforting the child and trying to ensure they are happy and healthy, children often think they also have some sort of responsibility to their parents and not upsetting them. This can be a good thing if you want your child not to misbehave, but when it comes to the emotional effects of a divorce, it can backfire. In this article, we tackle some of the top reasons your child may be afraid to make you sad and provide some tips on how to ensure that your child feels like they can talk to you without worrying about how you might feel.

Reasons Your Child May Be Afraid to Make You Sad

Many children are worried if they express their feelings or emotions that they might upset or hurt their parents, and this can lead to them internalizing those emotions and even creating false connections in their heads such as “It’s my fault they got divorced.” To be able to challenge those connections, it’s important to be aware of what your child may be thinking. Here are a few common reasons your child may be afraid to make you sad.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I want to see my other parent.

Children often feel like they are betraying one parent or having to choose between the two if they want to spend time with the other parent. This can come up in situations like wanting to go shopping with one parent instead of the other or even just the regular custody schedule. Your child may be afraid that if they show that they are happy to spend time with the other parent that you will think they don’t love you just as much.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I don’t like their new boyfriend/girlfriend.

While it’s not 100 percent necessary for your child to be ecstatic about your new partner for it to work out, it can make things more difficult if they don’t get along. However, if you don’t know that your child doesn’t like your new partner, you won’t even have the opportunity to address any issues, personality clashes or misunderstandings. Your child may be afraid that if they don’t like your new partner that you will have to choose between them, and they may be afraid that you love your new boyfriend or girlfriend more than them.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I don’t want to go to their house.

As children get older, they tend to have more of a social life and may have plans or things that they want to do when it’s time to go over to the other parent’s house. An example of this might be a birthday sleepover that is scheduled for the noncustodial parent’s weekend. Your child may be worried that you will be upset or think that they don’t love you or want to spend time with you because they want to go to the party instead.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I talk about before.

Divorce and the separation of the family is a big change, and it’s one that takes a lot of processing for kids and adults alike. However, it’s common that adults get to actually do that processing through talking to friends or family, joining support groups or talking to a therapist, but children are often left to their own thoughts. Your child may be afraid to make you sad if they want to talk about happy memories from when the parents were still together or show that they are sad that it didn’t work out.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I ask my other parent for help.

Single parents are superheros. They do everything and have to work in and fill multiple roles around the house and in their children’s lives. After a while, it becomes second nature to just handle everything yourself, especially when it comes to your children. However, your child may also want to get help from the other parent sometimes, whether it’s advice on how to talk to their crush or whether they should try out for varsity. Your child may be afraid to make you sad or make you feel like you’re not enough if they want to get specific help from the other parent.

I’m afraid to make my mom or dad sad if…I ask them not to come to something.

In coparenting situations where the parents are able to be civil and even friendly and get along, it’s usually not an issue for both parents to attend a function for the child. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case. If the relationship between the two parents is bad, it can be very stressful for the child to have everyone show up at a performance or game. They may not know where to look in the audience or who to go to first after it’s over, and they may also be worried that the parents will get into an argument in front of their friends and peers. Your child may be afraid that you will be sad or get your feelings hurt if they ask you not to come to a function so that they don’t have to split their time or deal with the stress.

What You Can Do About It

The good news is that for most parents, once they hear these reasons, they immediately think, “Oh, but that’s not true at all!” And letting your child know that these things won’t upset you or hurt you or make you sad is an important step in ensuring that they aren’t blaming themselves or carrying more emotional burden than they should be. It’s also important in keeping the lines of communication open and making your child feel like it’s safe to come to you with their issues and problems. Here are a few strategies that can help.

Remind Your Child That You Love Them Unconditionally

First and foremost, make it a point to tell your child that you love them and love them unconditionally as much as possible. When they have that strong basis of love, there will be less fear that there is something they can do or say to you that would shake that love. Children don’t have the life experience or maturity to understand the depth of parental love or that while you may not like how they are acting,  their choices or some decisions they make it doesn’t change how you feel about them or how much you love them at all.

Make a Point to Keep Your Feelings to Yourself

While it’s always good for children to understand that parents are humans too and sometimes they feel stressed or upset or angry, your child isn’t your therapist or best friend and shouldn’t be treated like it. Children pick up on every little cue, and even a sarcastic comment here and there can make your child more afraid of upsetting you or making you sad. While it’s perfectly normal to feel sad or upset if your child doesn’t want to come to your house or would rather the other parent come to “bring your parent to school day,” it’s best to keep that to private adult conversations and continue to show your child positivity and support.

Ask Questions to Foster Communication

It can be very difficult for children to be able to share their emotions and fears. They often don’t have the experience or vocabulary to understand those feelings, let alone articulate them. And even older children and teenagers may act out or do other things instead of sharing how they feel. One way to help things along is to ask questions and open the door for them to share. Instead of waiting for your child to say that they are worried about your new partner, maybe ask something along the lines of, “So-and-so’s been coming around a lot more. How do you think things are going?” Resist the urge to defend yourself or your partner and really just focus on hearing your child and validating those feelings. If there are things you need to address or explain, try to leave it for another conversation so that your child doesn’t associate that with them telling you how they felt.

Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, and unfortunately, those challenges don’t stop once the paperwork is finalized. Understanding that your child may have fears and emotions you’re not aware of and giving them an open, safe place to express those feelings without judgement can help everyone more forward as healthily as possible.

What Is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting

When two parents are working together to raise their children even after their romantic relationship has ended, we call this co-parenting. It’s a term you will hear quite a bit in family court, in divorce support groups and from mental health professionals. However, while co-parenting might be presented as the accepted default, it’s actually more of a gold standard, best case scenario situation. If you feel like you are having difficulties navigating co-parenting, it could be that this just doesn’t work for your specific set of circumstances, and you may need to consider other options, such as parallel parenting. In this article, we’ll explore what parallel parenting is, how it differs from co-parenting, what situations it can be helpful in and how to start implementing it in your life.

The Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting

While co-parenting and parallel parenting both refer to working with an ex to parent your children together, the two terms are not interchangeable. At its core, co-parenting refers to a partnership. Co-parents are able to talk to each other about issues that are coming up and collaborate on decision-making and what’s in the best interests of the children without it devolving. Co-parenting can be a challenge in the beginning for anyone, but it’s something that often comes more naturally with time and as the parents get more space from their relationship and redefine that relationship in terms of a business partnership or even as friends. 

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, refers to the two parents coming at the situation from a place of mutual respect but they don’t interact much beyond visitation transitions or when something absolutely must be decided jointly. Parallel parenting focuses mostly on the idea of “you do what works for you and I’ll do what works for me.” For example, in a co-parenting situation, the two parents may work together to decide on a bed time, curfew or other house rules that work for and are implemented at both houses. However, with parallel parenting, each parent is usually creating their own set of rules for their own home, and they stay out of any decisions made on the other parent’s time.

When Does the Situation Call for Parallel Parenting?

So, how do you know whether you just need to give co-parenting attempts a little more time or if it’s time to switch to parallel parenting? Here are just a few examples of situations and signs that parallel parenting may serve you better.

Communication Isn’t Good

Communication is key to any successful co-parenting relationship, and while there will always be bumps in the road or things that you don’t immediately agree on, co-parents are able to navigate these issues as a team. If you find that communication with the other parent often devolves into personal attacks or belittlement or if you’re seen as an adversary instead of a teammate, co-parenting may not be an option. Co-parenting is also extremely difficult if not impossible if there is no communication. If your attempts to involve the other parent are met with unanswered phone calls and no responses to emails or text messages, you may need to switch to parallel parenting. 

There Are Too Many People Involved

Sometimes, you may find that what was a positive co-parenting relationship starts to sour when other people get involved. This could be new friends, new spouses or family members, but if the other parent is suddenly being influenced by others, it can change the nature of co-parenting. While it’s definitely worth trying to talk to the other parent one-on-one if you think this may be the issue and see if you can get back on a good co-parenting track, it’s not always possible. This is common when one parent remarries and then has to consider the new spouse in parenting decisions for their household as well. 

The Relationship Was Toxic

While co-parenting is held as the goal, parallel parenting may be the better choice for your mental or even physical health if your relationship was toxic, was abusive or involved substance use issues. For co-parenting to work, both parties must be equally invested and responsible for the decisions and well-being of the children. This has to be the focus 100% of the time. However, those who are abusive or are suffering from the effects of an addiction may not be able to put the children’s needs first or empathize and work together with the other parent for mutually agreeable decisions. In these cases, it’s often the healthiest option to limit contact as possible with the other parent and focus on making sure the children are safe and well taken care of.

The Basics of Parallel Parenting

You’ve determined that co-parenting might not be the best for your situation and want to give parallel parenting a try. Great! But how do you start? Here are four key ways to start shifting to successful parallel parenting.

1. Keep Communication As Needed and Neutral

You won’t be able to just stop communicating with the other parent completely, but you can start focusing that communication in a different direction. Instead of trying to tackle issues as joint decisions, the focus becomes more on informing the other parent of things they absolutely must know about — think doctor’s appointments, sports schedules and illnesses — and sticking to neutral, fact-based information. You can make this even easier by using the messaging and calendar features in 2houses. Using the messaging feature in the app gives you a record of all communication sent and received and means you don’t have to worry about texting or emailing. You can add events, practices, games and even the visitation schedule to the calendar so that each parent has everything they need at a glance, eliminating the need for last-minute “what time is that thing again?” texts.

2. Shift Communication to the Impersonal

Communication should also be focused on the facts and be as objective and neutral as possible. Parallel parenting is often used in situations where one person refuses to communicate in a collaborative way, so this can be difficult if the other person is being combative, demeaning or threatening. Focusing on the gray rock or yellow rock method can help. This is when you make a point not to respond to any personal attacks or comments and focus the communication only on the kids.

For example, if after a drop off, the other parent texts you to question why the kids haven’t had a bath or says that they are dirty, you can choose to not respond at all — because this isn’t directly related to the children’s immediate care — which would be the gray rock option. Or you could say something like, “The children took showers this morning.” This would be the yellow rock option, which means that you’re responding but keeping things neutral and factual and not taking the bait.

3. Control What You Can

In parallel parenting, it’s very important to clearly define the scope of things that are within your control. This usually means the decisions that are taking place in your house or during your time, but if you have specific provisions in your custody agreement, such as you get to make education decisions, this would also be included. For the things that are in your control, set very specific boundaries and hold to them. When both parents aren’t on the same page, which is usually the reason for parallel parenting in the first place, children often try to play one parent against the other or try to bend the rules based on “well, Dad lets me at his house.” By clearly outlining what is and is not OK at your house and on your time and sticking to them, your children will better know what to expect and be aware that trying to play the other parent card doesn’t do any good.

4. Let Go of What You Can’t

On the flip side of the “control what you can” point, we have the things that are not within your control. And this is usually when we’re talking about the decisions that are made on the other parent’s time or at the other parent’s house. For example, maybe you have a strict 9 p.m. bedtime for the kids at your house, but when they spend the week at their mom’s, they can stay up as late as they want, even if it’s a school night. In a co-parenting situation, this would mean a conversation with both parents and a discussion that ended in an agreement on a bedtime that would work for and be enforced in both houses. However, with a parallel parenting situation, this would be something you would just have to let go — because you’re not likely to convince the other parent that the lack of bedtime isn’t reasonable and it would likely just lead to even more conflict. 

Parallel parenting and the gray/yellow rock methods can be very helpful in cases where positive co-parenting isn’t an option, but it does take practice to get comfortable with it. Remember that nothing is perfect from the beginning and that there will be some missteps, but how you move forward from those continues to set the tone.

Back to School and Coparenting After COVID-19

Back to scholl and Covid 19

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a landmark year so far, and it’s not over yet. From the first mentions of coronavirus at the beginning of the year to layoffs, stay-at-home orders and school closings, it seems like there’s nothing left untouched by the virus. Summer is offering some a brief respite, but parents across the country are starting to eye the impending 2020-2021 school year and wonder what it will look like.

When it comes to COVID-19 and co-parenting, the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know exactly what’s coming or what will happen in the future. But considering the possibilities and putting into place some contingency plans for back to school can help parents feel more prepared and ease some of the fears and uncertainty children are experiencing.

What Are School Districts Doing?

While every part of the country is known for its own specific way of doing things, what school looks like this fall is going to depend heavily on where you’re located. Many of the shutdowns and orders were state-specific, but as the country continues to attempt to reopen and deal with the possible second wave of infections, many governors are making county-by-county decisions. In this case of school openings, in particular, many decisions are being left up to the individual districts. School districts are getting lists of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the governor and then being told to implement them however works best for their students. This means that your children could be dealing with a remote learning situation, while three blocks away in another district, the children are going to school five days a week.

If you’re not sure what your district is planning yet, it could be because they don’t know yet either. Many districts are still formulating plans and trying to come up with multiple options so that they can change on the fly if there is a second wave or shutdowns need to happen again this fall. Make sure that you are subscribed to whatever method the school is using to communicate updates or changes, as this will likely happen as we move into flu season. Some districts have moved to social media while others are still using robocall lines, and if you’re not on the list, you won’t get the update.

Three Primary Possibilities

Most school districts across the country are creating multiple plans so that they can adjust if need be without the major disruption that happened this spring. Below are the three most common options being discussed.

Traditional Schooling — With Some Changes

This would be school as close to normal as we could get. Children would go to school for a full week and have in-person instruction as normal. However, the routines and environment surrounding that instruction is likely to look a little different. Many districts are considering requiring teachers and staff to wear masks, having fewer children in one room together and not bussing as many children in. Other requirements may include no shared supplies, not moving between classes for older students who tend to switch teachers for every grade and no recess time.

In this scenario, the change to the co-parenting or custody schedule is likely to be very small or not at all.

Remote Schooling

Remote schooling is the other end of the spectrum. This would be 100% online instruction similar to what many families dealt with schools shut down earlier this year. However, many districts are putting more time and effort into this option, so it would likely look different from the “crisis schooling,” with real lessons and virtual contact with teachers and less support and interaction needed from parents.

This option could cause serious disruption for co-parenting families where both parents are working and not able to be home with the children during school hours. While remote learning should require less from parents than crisis schooling, young children will still need to be kept on task and supervised during the day.

Hybrid Models

Many districts are considering a hybrid model, attempting to blend the desire for traditional school with the ability to switch to remote learning seamlessly if needed. Examples that have been tossed around by some districts include children going to school just two or three days a week and remote learning the other days, or elementary-aged children going to school as normal with middle and high school grades engaging in remote learning.

This option would also likely create difficulties for families operating out of two households and trying to follow a custody schedule because it doesn’t allow for the same option all week for the entire school year.

Co-Parenting Challenges for the Upcoming School Year

While it’s clear that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over what may happen with the upcoming school year, there are bound to be some co-parenting challenges. Depending on what your district opts for and your co-parenting relationship with the other parent, these could be major or minor. Below are a few common issues co-parenting families are facing with going back to school during the coronavirus.

1. Disagreements on What Option to Pick

This is perhaps the most serious issue: you can’t agree on which education option to pick for the fall. Some parents are adamant that children should go back to school as normally as possible, while others think it’s still too soon and the safe option is 100% remote learning. Still others are turning to online public schools and homeschooling as options that they hadn’t considered before. If both parents aren’t in agreement, it can cause serious issues.

In the case where one parent has sole decision-making ability, such as in sole legal custody situations, this might be solved by that parent just making an executive decision. However, if the parents have joint legal custody and can’t agree on what to do, the issue may have to go before the courts for the judge to make the final ruling.

2. Issues With Childcare

If your district is opting not to have school as “normal,” it’s likely to create a childcare issue. Even in two-parent households, many times, both parents are working out of the house and both incomes are necessary for financial purposes. And in the case of divorced parents, it’s common for the parent to be the only income in the family, which creates even more pressure.

For example, let’s say that the children are going to school two days a week, Tuesday and Wednesday, but are doing remote schooling the other three. However, both parents are working traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 jobs. What will they do with the children on the other three days? Many childcare centers have to reduce capacity with the new restrictions, and in-home sitters can be very expensive. Some parents may also face the issue of changing parenting time if one parent does have more freedom with work and can take the children when they aren’t in school. This could change a 50/50 custody split into an 80/20 split quickly, which can affect other issues such as child support.

3. Transporting School Items Back and Forth

A minor issue, but one that co-parents are likely to be dealing with on a near-constant basis, is the transportation of school items back and forth between both houses. You’re probably already used to making sure that homework gets taken care of and backpacks go with the kids, but remote learning situations may come with laptops, tablets or other expensive technology that your children, and therefore you, are now responsible for. Now, a tablet left at Mom’s becomes a “have to drive and go get it tonight or I can’t do school in the morning” problem instead of a “you can just pick it up next time” issue.

No matter what school ends up looking like in your area come August and September, the truth is that it will take some time to get the hang of things. Even if you think you’ve planned for every possible scenario, there are still likely to be some curveballs and surprises, and a sense of humour and remembering that everyone — teachers, kids and the other parent — are all trying their best can go a long way.

The 2houses co-parenting app can make it easier to navigate through the changing landscape of what back to school may look like by offering features such as a messaging center, an information bank and a calendar all in one user-friendly interface. Use the calendar to keep track of which days the children are remote or in-person learning, use the information bank to keep record of any required doctor’s visits or vaccinations and use the messaging center to keep the other parent up to date on schooling changes or any possible symptoms of COVID-19.

4 Reasons to Use a Co-Parenting App

2houses

While a divorce or separation is often the best choice for some families, it doesn’t mean that co-parenting comes without its challenges. Learning to coordinate, communicate and work together with the other parent comes with a learning curve. It’s easy to misread a text, lose track of an email or forget to pass along information on extracurricular activities — all of which can cause conflict in your co-parenting relationship. Whether you’re trying to find a way to keep track of papers, notices, expenses and who has what holiday or you just want to find a way to make communication more civil, a co-parenting app can help. 2houses was designed with divorced parents in mind and helps make dealing with two separate households a little less stressful.

4 Benefits of Using a Co-Parenting App

Co-parenting apps can’t magically make your relationship and interactions with the other parent perfect and conflict-free, but they can help streamline communication, help you keep track of paperwork and make it a little easier to deal with a tenuous situation. Below we’ve covered just a few of the main benefits you can get from using a co-parenting app.

1. It Helps Foster Communication

Communication is key to successful co-parenting. The more of an open exchange of dialogue involving concerns, upcoming events and just general updates on the children’s lives you can have, the better for your co-parenting relationship and for your children. However, this isn’t always as easy in practice as it is in theory.

Sometimes, it’s one parent who won’t cooperate. You send them texts and emails keeping them updated on school events and sports practices for the kids, but they claim they never received them. Or maybe you’re dealing with a situation where the other parent is actively trying to sabotage co-parenting by withholding information or sending angry and derogatory messages.

Other times, communication issues happen just because there is so much to keep track of. This can be especially true in situations where there are multiple children. Every child has their own homework that needs to be done, extracurricular schedules, playdates and meetups with friends, and sometimes things get lost in the shuffle and not communicated to both parents.

2houses can help with all of these issues by giving you a way to keep track of all communication in one easy-to-access place. So whether you need to confirm vacation plans, send along the snack requirements for your son’s soccer practice or ask the other parent for medical forms, everything can be communicated through the 2houses app. The messaging center offers secure messaging much like an email system with timestamps of when things were sent and read, and while you can archive conversations once they are not needed anymore, nothing can ever be deleted, so you can always go back and follow up with something if needed.

2. It Keeps Everything in One Place

One of the more common hazards of co-parenting and trying to manage children between two households is that there is a lot of paperwork. And when you consider that now some places such as schools and doctors’ offices are going digital and emailing records or allowing you access via apps, it can get even more challenging to know where to look for information that needs to be shared with the other parent. Just a few of the things that parents often need to share include:

  • Information on teacher names
  • Medical records
  • Expense records and reimbursement requests
  • Permissions slips
  • Insurance information
  • Clothing and shoe sizes
  • Christmas and birthday wishlists
  • Phone numbers and addresses for friends and family

If you have multiple children, the paperwork starts to grow exponentially. If you’ve ever tried to find a school lunch bill in a stack of papers or ended up having to ask the other parent for a medical bill again after misplacing it, you know how easy it is for things to get lost, misplaced or  just plain forgotten about. It can be very difficult for either parent to keep track of what’s been sent and what hasn’t or what information is being kept where. That’s where the co-parenting app comes in.

One of the main features of 2houses is the information bank. It lets you upload virtually everything you could ever need to provide the other parent with in one place. There are dedicated places for things like bank information and vaccination records, but there’s also document storage that lets you upload any paper directly to the app and share it with the other parent. You can also organize your documents after you’ve uploaded them however you need to, such as by child or by category. This ensures the other parent has everything they need, but it also makes it easier for you because it’s like an instant online filing system. Anytime you need insurance information or need to double check your child’s shoe size, it’s all already in the app.

3. It Lets Both Parents Stay Involved

It used to be that people believed that a two-parent household was the gold standard as far being the best for kids. But now, we’ve recognized that the best thing for children is to have two happy, healthy parents, and sometimes, that means those parents making the choice to no longer be romantically involved or live in the same house. The most important thing is that both parents stay active and involved in the children’s lives.

It’s obviously impossible to keep up the same level of involvement as if both parents were living in the same household with the child, but technology has advanced so much that it’s not as difficult as it once was. This is especially true in cases where the parents have joint physical custody and both parents are having frequent face-to-face contact with the children. Video calling and texting have allowed parents to stay more in touch with their children than in years past, but co-parenting apps like 2houses can also help.

While just being able to have all the notices and the schedule in one place can make it easier for both parents to attend functions and ensure they are actively participating in their children’s lives, two other important features of 2houses that help parents stay connected to their children are the journaling and photo album capabilities.

The in-app journal lets parents and children share everything from thoughts on the day to feelings about upcoming events or just recapping for memory keeping purposes. Children can have their own access that is controlled by the parent account so they can contact both parents and send messages without also having access to private communications between the parents.

For those times when one parent isn’t able to be there in person, the photo album allows either the children or the other parent to upload pictures so they can still “be there” virtually. Common applications for this are for birthdays, school functions, vacations and even just silly candids of the kids.

4. It’s Automatic Documentation

Even in the best of co-parenting situations, there are bound to be some conflicts. One of the best things about using a co-parenting app for all communication and file and paper transfers is that you have built-in documentation. If you run into a situation where you think one thing was said but the other parent believes it was something else, it’s easy to just go back to the messages and reread it word for word. These messages are also built into the system which means there’s no possibility of common situations like one person deleting texts or not having “received” an email. For example, if one parent sends the other parent a notice that the children have a school play on Friday night at 6 p.m. through the app, the other parent can’t claim they didn’t attend because they didn’t know about it.

If you’re ever in a situation where you end up needing to take an issue back before the courts, using the 2houses co-parenting app makes it much easier to keep your documentation straight and have everything you need to present your case. Consider an example of one parent who claims that the other parent is interfering with their parenting time and not letting the first parent see the children. If Parent Number 2 has the documented messages from the app that show that Parent Number 1 cancelled at the last minute or no-showed several times, this can help Parent Number 1 show that interference is not the issue with the parenting time.

Whether you are just starting on your co-parenting journey or you’re trying to make it even smoother, co-parenting apps can be an important piece of the puzzle. Learn more about the features 2houses has to offer and how it can help you make positive changes in communication between you and the other parent, help you organize your paperwork and keep everything handy for documentation purposes if needed.

60/40 Custody Schedules and What they Really Look Like

Custody Calendar template

More and more parents are choosing to have joint custody in the last few decades as opposed to the traditional every other weekend schedules of the past. While shared custody has shown to be helpful in ensuring the children have a good relationship with both parents, it can get confusing on how to split the time. The 60/40 custody schedule is a popular choice, and it can break down in a variety of ways. Here’s an overview of the 60/40 schedule, some practical examples and considerations for when you’re choosing what works best for your family.

What Does a 60/40 Schedule Actually Look Like?

When we talk about joint custody schedules in terms of numbers, we’re really talking about the percentage of time division between the two parents. In a 50/50 schedule, both parents are spending about half of the time in any given week with the child. In a 60/40 custody schedule, one parent is getting about 60% of the time while the other gets around 40%.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t always work out exactly. For example, the breakdown, depending on which schedule you choose, may actually work out to something like 57/43, but for intents and purposes, it’s referred to as a 60/40 split. Another key principle here is that joint custody schedules take into consideration around-the-clock time, not just time actually spent with the children. So, even if you have the 60 side of the 60/40 split, if your days mostly fall during the week when you are working and the children are in school, you may end up with less face-to-face time than a parent who has the 40% on the weekends.

Common 60/40 Custody Splits

There are many ways to put a 60/40 custody schedule into place, and if both parents are in agreement, they can largely make whatever schedule they want. When you’re deciding on how to make a 60/40 custody schedule work, it’s important to keep in mind the ages of the children. Younger children often do better with shorter times away from the other parent while older children are better able to handle 4-5 day stretches away from the other parent. Here are just a few of the most common 60/40 custody schedules.

Long Weekends

This schedule splits the week into two main parts: the main week and a long weekend. Parent #1 has parenting time from Monday morning to Friday early afternoon, and Parent #2 gets the children from Friday early afternoon to Monday morning. It’s common in this case for Parent #2 to be the one dropping the children off at school on Monday morning and picking them up on Friday afternoon. The main advantage to this schedule is that the days are always the same; however, it also means that one parent gets every weekend. This can be an issue if Parent #1 is working during the week because they end up with very little downtime with the children.

4-3

In discussions of custody schedules, you will often see them laid out as numbers with dashes in between. This refers to how the days are separated between the parents. For example, in the 4-3 schedule, Parent #1 gets the children for four days and then Parent #2 gets them for three days. This continues to repeat.

The main difference between this and the long weekend schedule is that, depending on when you start the week, the entire weekend may not be spent with one parent. For example, Parent #1 could get Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then the other parent would get Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. This schedule can be customized depending on when you want the three-day break with the other parent to be, which can be helpful for families with nontraditional work schedules.

2-2-5-5

A 2-2-5-5 schedule alternates with Parent #1 getting the children for two days, then they go back to Parent #2 for two days, then back to Parent #1 for five days and then back to Parent #2 for five days. A practical example of this schedule could be:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-5-5 custody schedule template

This would then repeat. The biggest advantage of this type of schedule is that it alternates weekends so that each parent gets time away from work and school to be with the children. However, it can be complicated to keep track of.

2-2-3

The 2-2-3 schedule is often used for younger children because there are no long stretches away from either parent. An example of this schedule is:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Parent #2: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #1: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #2: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-3 custody schedule template

This schedule also allows for alternating weekends and can be simpler to keep track of than the 2-2-5-5 split. However, it does require a lot of shuffling between houses, which can be difficult for children who feel like they don’t really have one main home. There are often also reentry issues when the children switch between houses, especially if the rules between the two are very different. In this type of schedule, the children are almost always coming from or going to a house, so these issues may be worsened.

How 60/40 Custody Schedules Can Affect Other Issues

If you are still trying to decide how you are going to share custody, it’s important to keep in mind that your physical custody schedule is different from your legal custody. For example, it’s common for parents to have shared physical custody so they both get ample time with the children but for one parent to retain sole legal custody. This means that one parent still has the decision-making power for things like education, religious and medical decisions. Always make sure that you know exactly what your physical and legal custody division is.

If you do decide to go with a 60/40 custody schedule, it can affect the amount of child support you receive or have to pay. In a 50/50 shared custody split, it’s common for judges to not award child support to either party because they are sharing the time equally, and the assumption is that they are also sharing the cost of living for the children equally because of this. In a 60/40 custody schedule, the judge may award some child support to the parent with the 60%, particularly if there is a large income disparity between the two parties, but it’s likely to be much less than the custodial parent would get in a sole physical custody schedule with the noncustodial parent only getting the children every other weekend.

The last consideration for any type of shared custody schedule is that it requires a great deal of communication and coordination between the parents — particularly in the case of the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 splits where the children are changing houses frequently. If you have a positive co-parenting relationship with the other parent and are able to keep the lines of communication open, this can work very well. However, these kinds of schedules can be difficult if for high-conflict situations. In these cases, it may be better to stick to the 4-3 split or a long weekend schedule so that the schedule stays the same from week to week.

60/40 Custody Schedules and 2houses

Co-parenting apps like 2houses can make it much easier to track and manage joint custody schedules. For example, the calendar app lets you put the custody schedule directly on to the calendar so that you can always see at a glance who the children will be with when. This is especially helpful in the case of more complicated 60/40 custody schedules like the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 options. You can also add all important dates, extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments or anything else that needs to be taken care of to the calendar so that both parents know exactly what needs to happen on their parenting time without the other parent having to tell them or remind them.

The message feature is also helpful for shared custody situations because it provides an easy way to coordinate with the other parent in a secure way. Children who are often changing houses might have medication that needs to go with them or may forget a sports uniform or report for school, and being able to take care of these things all within the same app is very helpful for efficient communication and automatic documentation purposes.

Find out more about how 2houses can help make your co-parenting journey less stressful and more productive by checking out our features rundown and then signing up for our free 14-day trial so you can see the benefits for yourself.

The Ultimate Roundup of Kid-Friendly Summer Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Over 2 million children in the US attend school all year round. If your kids aren’t part of this statistic, then school’s out soon, and you need some summer vacation ideas quick!

As you may already know, the novel coronavirus pandemic’s made the world come to a screeching halt. So normal summer vacations may be out of the question.

Plus, you’re either separated or divorced from your partner, which makes parenting during COVID even more difficult.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still give your kids an amazing summer vacation. You just have to get creative!

To help you out, here are some great vacation ideas during COVID-19 for separated parents.

Forget About International Travel

International travel is already quite a headache to deal with in regular times, especially when you share your kids with your ex. Add in a serious virus and various travel bans, and you’re just asking for trouble. A trip halfway around the world to Japan can wait until next year or beyond.

While some airlines are opening flights back up, plus they’re offering dirt-cheap prices, it may be very tempting to whisk your kids off on a fun international adventure. However, you never know when a second wave might happen anywhere.

Not only can that put the brakes on your vacation plans, but it may even leave you stranded in a foreign country. That dirt-cheap vacation suddenly doesn’t look so good anymore.

Not to mention, everyone will most likely have to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks upon return. If you don’t get any more days with the children after you come home, then your ex probably won’t be very happy with that. So you might have to either risk making them angry or going through the hassle of arranging temporary custody plans for that time.

Take a Road Trip

If you’re going stir-crazy and are set on going on summer vacation with the kids, why not take a road trip? That way, you can control how far you go, depending on your custody plan and budget.

A road trip also ensures that you social distance better. You won’t have to pile into a metro, bus, or train; you’ll travel in the comfort of your own car. 

A road trip gives your family the ability to explore their local surroundings more. You never know; you may have been taking the local scene for granted this whole time!

Go RVing

RVing is a step above taking a road trip in your regular vehicle! This can be a unique experience for the kids, especially if they’ve never done this before.

Staying in an RV can be a special experience, plus it helps with social distancing even more. You can pull up into RV camping grounds every night and the children can get to know other kids (at a safe and appropriate distance, of course).

You’ll get to take in the natural landscapes and your children can get a newfound appreciation for what Mother Nature offers us. You can also really bond with them during this time, since you have to spend all day, every day with one another.

Go Camping

Camping is another way to safely go on summer vacation. This is a great alternative if you don’t want to (or have the budget to) rent out an RV.

Grab your camping gear and the kids, then head out to the nearest national park. You’ll be able to spend quality time with one another and truly disconnect, as many national parks don’t get reception.

Have your children put away their devices and get in touch with nature. Go hiking and swimming, and point out all the flora and fauna around you.

If you have some skills you’ve remembered from Boy Scouts, go ahead and teach your kids these skills too. It can be fun getting back to the basics!

Stay in a Large Resort

Maybe your family doesn’t really like getting down and dirty in nature. That’s ok! For you, there’s always the luxurious resort you can kick back and relax in.

Take a look around at your options and you just may be surprised at what the prices are like. What may have been out of reach in the past might be doable now, since the pandemic’s pushed prices for practically everything down.

Make sure you double-check if they’re following more stringent cleaning procedures. They should be thoroughly sanitizing not just the rooms, but all public areas.

Once you arrive at the resort, you can then make use of their amenities while keeping your distance from other vacationers. Even if the resort has round-the-clock cleaning done, don’t forget to bring your own hand sanitizer so you and the kids decrease your chances of getting sick.

Rent a Vacation House

For those of you who have a smaller budget, you might opt for a vacation house rather than a resort. Get yourself a change of scenery and take the children somewhere where the weather’s nice. You can even combine this with a road trip and have the final destination be the vacation house.

Book a spacious place with plenty of amenities so the kids don’t get bored while on vacation. It should be interesting enough that even though they’re still in a house, they’ll be pleased since it’s something new and exciting.

Renting and staying in a vacation house can be ideal if you don’t want the stress of planning out a vacation and need a break too. Everyone can have a laidback time in this home away from home.

Coordinate With the Other Parent

If you don’t want your kids to have short summer vacations, then you may want to consider coordinating with your ex in order to give your children 1 long vacation. While you may have some form of 50/50 custody agreement, it can work out to an almost uninterrupted vacation for the kids.

For example, if both of you have an interest in visiting a beach city for the summer, you can line up your schedules so you’ll be there one half of the week while they’ll be for the rest. If you want a longer duration, you might be able to compromise on a temporary schedule where each parent gets the kids for 1 or 2 weeks at a time.

Just as your vacation at the beach city is ending, the other parent will start their vacation. All you’ll have to do is hand off the children and they’ll get to continue having a fantastic time there.

Staycation Ideas

Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable taking the kids out for a trip right now. Or maybe you’re too busy and don’t have the budget to leave the city, much less the state or country.

In that case, there are still plenty of family summer vacations you can do at home. Keep reading for some creative staycation ideas you can enjoy with your family.

“Visit” Museums

With lockdowns and social distancing in place for most areas, lots of museums are closed. But if you want to teach your kids some culture and history, not all hope is lost.

Many museums are doing virtual tours. All you have to do is hop online, take a look at their social media accounts or websites, and you’ll be able to find out if they’re doing this or not.

From the comfort of your living room (and pajamas!), you and your children can look at amazing pieces of art and discuss them with one another.

“Visit” Trails

Technology’s great in that they can bring you practically everything in digital form. Not only can you “visit” museums, but you can also go on beautiful trails!

If you’re not feeling up to getting out into nature but still want to show your children the outside world, just queue up virtual walking trails for them on the computer. You’ll get to take in jaw-dropping sights from all around the world!

Don’t Forget About Chores

Who says summer vacation is all about fun and games? Also, who said chores can’t be fun?

Kids have a tendency to get bored, plus you probably want to teach them about responsibility. You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by making chores more exciting.

Your entire family can have hours of fun doing projects together. Not only will this get them used to responsibility, but they’ll also associate good memories with chores. As a result, they’ll grow up less resistant to the idea of chores and will be more ready to tackle them as teenagers and adults.

Some Tips While You’re Out and About

While some places have fewer COVID-19 cases than others, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some tips to help keep you and your little ones safe this summer.

Bring a COVID-19 Kit

Chances are, you already have a first aid kit you bring along when you’re with the kids. Pack another small bag to bring along that’ll keep the corona germs away.

In this kit, include hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol, bleach, disposable gloves, and disposable face masks, even if you have reusable ones. You should also put in a small spray bottle so you can mix cleaning solutions with bleach to spray and rub down surfaces.

Other handy things to put in your COVID-19 kit are soap and paper towels.

Get Your Vehicle Tuned up Before Leaving

All it takes is one minor issue with your vehicle to ruin plans for a whole day. Decrease the chances of this happening by having your car tuned up before you hit the road.

Make sure your wipers are new, all fluids are topped off, and that your tires are full and have decent treads. You can either do all this yourself or have a mechanic perform these services for you.

You’ll also want to double-check you still have a spare tire available.

Bring as Many Essentials as Possible

It may be a pain to do so, especially right before you’re supposed to go have fun with the kids. But with a little bit of preparation, you can decrease the number of trips you’ll need to make to the grocery store while on vacation. Not only will this give you more time to have fun, but this will also reduce your exposure to the virus.

Try filling your car’s trunk up to the brim with essentials, such as snacks, tissues, and drinks. If there’s space in your backseat, fill it up as well. Then, throughout your vacation, you can slowly use those things instead of making extra trips to the grocery store.

Research Healthcare in the Places You’re Going

You can take every precaution possible, but the reality is, nothing’s foolproof. Any one of you could contract the coronavirus, and not just that. You could get the common cold, flu, or even food poisoning or injuries from your trip’s activities.

Should anything happen, you want to be prepared so your family’s well taken care of.

Research the hospitals and walk-in clinics of your destination. Check your health insurance to get a grasp on what is and isn’t covered.

When you have all this knowledge, you’ll have better peace of mind. That way, you can focus more on having fun and making memories with the kids.

Try Out These Fantastic Summer Vacation Ideas

Now you have quite a few suggestions for summer vacation ideas, as well as some tips to make your trip safer and smoother. Once your kids are out of school, you’ll be able to keep them entertained with all of these fun summer activities.

Remember that it’s not where you go, but how you spend your time with one another. Even if you have a staycation, it can be one of the most fun and memorable times for your children. You just have to know how to dress it up and make it exciting!

Need a great way to organize your co-parenting schedule? Then sign up for 2houses today! Our calendar will help you and your ex sync your schedules effortlessly.

COVID and Coparenting: What You Need to Know

COVID and Coparenting

Since COVID-19’s arrival, it has changed nearly everything about daily life. From how we grocery shop and connect with friends and family to where we work and how our children learn, 2020 has brought many changes and challenges to deal with. You’ve already had to figure out how to juggle working from home and crisis schooling, and those who work in essential jobs have had the difficult challenge of trying to ensure the children are taken care of while working in the absence of school and daycares. For those who are coparenting, visitation schedules may have had to have been adjusted or, in the case of high-risk individuals or those who have tested positive for COVID-19, sometimes suspended altogether.

The good news is that many states across the country are starting to reopen for business and attempt to return to “normal” life, but that doesn’t mean everything will instantly revert back to the way it was. As we continue to see what COVID-19 will bring and how it will shape our society and culture moving forward into the rest of 2020 and beyond, here are some challenges that may be coming as summer begins and some tips on how to manage them.

1. Graduations and End-of-School Ceremonies

With many places still having bans on public gatherings or limitations on how many people can be together at once, schools have had to scramble to figure out a way to recognize the graduating class of 2020. Other end-of-school ceremonies have also been impacted, including Kindergarten and middle school graduations, school musicals and recognition ceremonies and banquets.

Some schools have attempted to pivot with these changes by offering virtual ceremonies via video-conferencing apps or drive-through graduations where only one family is allowed through at a time to see their child walk the stage and receive their diploma. While these solutions are creative and have given some much-needed recognition for the students, it hasn’t been without its challenges. In some cases, only one parent is allowed to attend the ceremony or there is a very tight cap on the number of people allowed, which can create issues for divorced and blended families.

If you’re dealing with graduation or end-of-year ceremony issues, being proactive and talking directly with teachers and administrators can be helpful. This is something no one has dealt before, and often, solutions are presented and put in place without actually checking if they are suitable or work for the people involved. Letting your administrator know that you still want your child to have the option of a graduation stage walk or that limiting the guests makes it impossible for both parents to witness can help them better understand the situation, and you may find that exceptions are able to be made. If nothing can be done, brainstorm other ways to make these events special such as drive-by recognitions, virtual parties or having an at-home ceremony in the backyard.

2. Changing Vacation Schedules

You might already have a system worked out for vacations with your coparent, but with COVID-19 cancelling travel plans across the country, your usual destination might not be open or you may have to change vacation weeks. Work schedules might have changed, meaning you can’t take as much vacation time in a row as usual, or you might even opt for a staycation to save money after having to deal with cutbacks in your budget due to time off or unemployment. The bottom line is that summer vacation is probably going to look a lot different for many people this year — and maybe even next — and that means that you’re going to have to work things out with your child’s other parent.

As with most issues involving coparenting, one of the best things you can do is keep the lines of communication open and moving freely. If you already know that you’d like to make some changes to the normal vacation procedures, start talking to the other parent as soon as possible. Most standard custody and visitation agreements have periods of notification set out in writing, which means that if you want to make a change or need to let the other parent know when you’re planning on taking your vacation time, you have to do it a certain number of days in advance. Otherwise, the other parent can say no, and the default schedule remains in place.


Remember to be civil and realize that everyone has had to make changes and adjustments during this time and that this trend will likely continue. Cooperating with each other and ensuring that everyone has the details of planned or possible vacation times easily accessible on a joint calendar or something similar can make the process as smooth as possible.

3. Uncertain Schooling for Fall

The 2019-2020 school year is just wrapping up in most parts of the country, but things are still uncertain when it comes to what schooling will look like in the fall. Some colleges have said that they will reopen on-campus classes for the 2020-2021 academic year, but most K-12 schools are still trying to figure out how to manage the large number of students in the building while complying with new rules for social distancing and cleaning. Some schools are tossing around the idea of a hybrid model that would have students going to in-person classes 2-3 days a week and doing remote learning on the other days. Other schools are considering longer class days or year-round schooling so that they can accommodate small class sizes.

There’s also the possibility that you might choose not to have your children return to public schools in the fall. Some parents have expressed how much happier they are connecting on a more frequent basis with their children, and those who are being allowed to continue to work at home might be exploring the ideas of homeschooling or enrolling children in an online school where they will have more control over what the school day looks like come fall.

If you have sole custody, what your child’s education looks like next year is probably up to you. In most cases, the sole custodian has full decision-making permissions when it comes to educational issues, but if you have shared parenting, this is something you will need to discuss with the other parent and come to an agreement on. And even if you are planning on having your child return to traditional public school, there may need to be some changes to what that looks like on the home front depending on how the district decides to move forward.

As you’re contemplating these decisions or waiting on word from your district, it may be helpful to start talking to the other parent about possible scenarios and solutions so you’re prepared to move forward when decisions are made. For example, if your school chooses to move to the hybrid model, maybe one of you has a more flexible job and can work from home on the days your child isn’t at school. No matter what you decide or how you choose to handle things, however, it will be important to stay flexible as changes are likely if not inevitable as the next school year progresses.

4. Anxieties, Fears and Burnout (on Both Sides)

The truth is that life changed significantly and quickly for most people at the beginning of 2020, and whether that meant increased work hours, job loss or just major adjustments with more people at home all day, the emotional and mental toll is real for both parents and children. Depending on the age of your children, you may be dealing with younger kids who have anxieties about getting sick, tweens who are trying to suddenly navigate a life without in-person friendships or high school graduates who are upset about not getting to have all their “lasts” and are worried about what this will all mean for college next year. And the mental health and burnout toll juggling all of this has had on parents — especially single parents — is immeasurable.

During this time, it’s important to remember that mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. And while the demands of jobs and schooling may be significant, it’s important to place a priority on getting out in the fresh air, engaging in physical activity that brings you joy, such as hiking or dancing, and making time for just plain fun. Having a family meeting to create an open discussion about how everyone is feeling and what they need can give you a place to start, and asking children for suggestions on how to cope, such as family game nights or making a summer garden together, can help them feel like valued contributors who have a voice. It may also be helpful to look at telecommute counseling sessions for the whole family, including the coparent, if there are significant issues or you feel like the family could benefit from an objective outsider’s perspective.

No matter what the second half of the year and beyond brings, the key to successfully navigating coparenting during this time is open communication and the free exchange of information. One of the best ways to facilitate this is with a coparenting app like 2Houses. This app includes a joint calendar that makes keeping track of kids’ activities, parenting schedules and cancellations simple and easy, and you can message right within the app so all communication is in writing and in one place. There are also features that let you keep track of expenditures for reimbursement and an info bank so everything has access to important information like teachers’ numbers, medical information and anything else you need both parents to have access to. As we continue to see how the COVID-19 will coparenting moving forward, 2Houses makes it easy to keep everyone in the loop and cooperate when adjustments and changes need to be made.

Joint Custody and Father’s Day: How Does it Work When It’s Mom’s Turn?

Shared custody

When it comes to parenting, we dads tend to be underestimated. People assume that a child’s mother is the primary parent and that the dad simply pitches in every so often. That perception is even stronger in joint custody families when the kids spend most of their time living with your ex.

No matter who thinks what, one fact is certain: Father’s Day is your day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate your relationship with your kids. Of course, that’s hard to do if you don’t have the kids with you for the holiday.

How does joint custody work when Father’s Day isn’t supposed to be your day? Before I delve into that topic, you need to find out whether Father’s Day is already one of your days with the kids.

How to Know if You Have Your Kids for Father’s Day

Unless specified otherwise, Father’s Day is just like any other Sunday in your parenting plan. If you’re already supposed to have the kids on that day, you’re in luck.

It’s also a good idea to check your parenting plan. Most families make special agreements for holidays, and that may include Father’s Day.

If following your parenting plan would mean your kids would be with your ex for Father’s Day, hope isn’t lost. You can work it out with your ex to celebrate Father’s Day the right way.

What to Do if You Want to Have Your Kids for Father’s Day

Let’s say Father’s Day this year doesn’t fall on a day when you’d normally have the kids. Use these tips as your next steps.

1. Open a Negotiation

If you want to change your custody schedule with your ex, it’s all a negotiation. Start early, at least a few weeks in advance, so you have time to come to an agreement. If you live in a different state and your kids will need travel arrangements, start the discussion earlier.

The best way to approach the discussion is as an even exchange. Offer to swap with your ex so you can have the kids on Father’s Day and then can have them for another day that they normally wouldn’t.

2. Use Written Communication

This is critical in any co-parenting situation, no matter how you relate to your ex. Even for minor details, always use written communication like texts or emails.

There are several reasons for this. First, it puts your agreement in writing. If your ex tries to back out later or says they don’t remember, you have it in black and white.

The second advantage is that with written communication, there is no face-to-face or vocal communication. The more removed the conversation is, the less likely you are to get into an argument.

Finally, written communication gives you a chance to think through your words before you respond. Is that swap your ex is offering really fair? If they’re trying to bait you into a fight, how can you word your response to stay calm and mature?

3. Get Your Attorney’s Input

You don’t need to lose your family law attorney’s number when your custody arrangement is signed. They should be available as an ongoing resource you can turn to when new issues arise. I can all but promise you that in co-parenting, there will be new issues that come up.

Check in with your attorney about your Father’s Day arrangement. Before texting your ex about it, send the text to your attorney to see if they think you should change the wording. They can give you other tips for handling the situation in a way that maintains your legal integrity.

4. Consider a Long-Term Father’s Day Agreement

No one wants to ask their ex for a favor every year to spend Father’s Day with their kids. Instead, consider asking your ex to amend your parenting plan so that you always have the kids for Father’s Day.

This will cut down on long-term drama and stress. A word, of caution, though: a few weeks before Father’s Day is not the time to start this process.

You can all but guarantee that the change won’t be in place before the upcoming Father’s Day. You could make your ex angry in the process, so they might deny you the ability to have this Father’s Day with the kids.

Instead, negotiate a one-time swap for the upcoming Father’s Day. Then wait until the holiday has passed before you take action toward changing the parenting plan.

Every state’s process for changing a parenting plan is unique. Speak with your family law attorney to see how to move forward. It may require a formal request for a custody modification.

5. Plan Your Special Day

Let’s assume you work things out with your ex so the kids are with you for Father’s Day. You want to make the most of the special day, especially if you aren’t sure you’ll have future Father’s Days together.

Plan something to do for the day with your kids. Take them out to an amusement park, a movie, a fun restaurant, you name it. Make it a fun day for you all to spend together.

6. Have Realistic Expectations

As important as it is to plan your Father’s Day, you can’t go overboard. Don’t assume it will be a magical, flawless day that your kids will cherish forever.

Your kids are still kids. They might be cranky or they may have a last-minute school project they need to finish. Prepare yourself to roll with the punches and make the most out of anything that comes your way.

Your realistic expectations apply to Father’s Day gifts and cards, too. Don’t assume your ex will take the high road and help the kids get a gift for you. If they don’t, realize that it isn’t a reflection of how much your kids love you.

How Does Joint Custody Work in Difficult Situations?

In most divorced couples, negotiating for the father to have the kids on Father’s Day is a no-brainer. You are the kids’ father, after all, so it only makes sense. There are some situations that are more complicated, though.

What if You’re One of Two Fathers?

Without a doubt, negotiating Father’s Day custody is more difficult if your ex is also your children’s father. You can assume that he wants to spend Father’s Day with them as much as you do.

In these cases, it’s often best to trade off. Perhaps you’ll have the kids this year, then your ex will have them next year, and it goes back and forth.

There’s also the option for both of you to celebrate Father’s Day with the kids if you’re on good terms. If you try this, lay out ground rules in advance about having a joyful, conflict-free day.

What if Your Kids Have a Stepfather?

If your ex is married or committed to a new man, he may take on a fatherly role for your kids. That’s all fine and dandy unless he’s trying to push you out in the process.

If the stepfather wants to have Father’s Day with the kids, explain calmly and clearly that this is important to you. Remind him that you’re the kids’ father so this should be a special day between you and the kids.

It may help to come up with a different day that the kids can celebrate their stepfather. Talk to him about making up your own Stepfather’s Day for the kids to celebrate with him.

What if Your Ex Won’t Agree to a Swap?

The reality is that as hard as you try, you’re at the mercy of whether your co-parent agrees to a swap for Father’s Day. If they don’t, you can still make your own Father’s Day.

Simply tell the kids you’re rescheduling Father’s Day this year for a day when they’re supposed to be with you. Show them your excitement and tell them it’ll be a special day between you.

As angry and hurt as you may be by your ex’s actions, remember to never speak about it to your kids. If you badmouth your ex, you put yourself at risk for being accused of alienating them. That will hurt you in future parenting plan negotiations.

More importantly, though, you’re hurting your kids’ precious relationship with their other parent.

If you do need to “reschedule” Father’s Day, it doesn’t mean you have to cross off that original day on the calendar. While your kids are with your ex, use it as a day to celebrate you. Take the day off from housework and do something you enjoy.

Dealing with Joint Custody on Father’s Day

Whether you’ve been separated for a year or a decade, co-parenting can be complicated. Simple questions like “how does joint custody work on Father’s Day?” aren’t always simple.

With this guide, you can make sure Father’s Day remains a special day your kids look forward to every year. They won’t mind if you have to tweak the schedule.

For more co-parenting tips, check out more 2houses blogs.