Summer is here and with it--summer vacation time. If you are a divorced parent, you may find yourself either on the end of having kids for an extended time or living with them for a few weeks. Here are some survival skills to keep everyone happy:
If you are the one taking the kids: Communicate early and often. As soon as you know when you would like to take your kids on vacation, notify your ex. Many divorce decrees state a specific time frame--often as early as one month in advance.
Co-parenting your children easily and kindly is the best thing you can do for family (and like it or not, you ex is still family.) Keeping each other abreast of changes is the nicest thing you can do for yourself and your kids. So as soon as you know you'll be traveling, let your ex know your itinerary. That gives him/her time to make their summer plans as well.
If you are the parent left behind: As much as we crave time alone and fantasize about all the things we could get done if we just had a week or so to ourselves, a boisterous household that is now quiet can be very unsettling. We knew one parent whose ex took their children to his native England for 3 weeks every summer. It took her a full 10 days just to adjust to them being gone. How can you handle this? Talk to your ex and kids.
If they are too young to have phones, ask your ex to call every other day, and to please text pics of particularly exciting events (like your kids first romp in the ocean!) If your kids do have phones ask the same of them, but do remember they are on special time with their parent. Try your best to be respectful and not ask them to have to call too often. This is their vacation. Allow them to revel in it.
Plan out your time alone: We all need time alone and most of us have a significant to-do list. Plan out what is most important and set aside days to tackle those items--clean the garage, organize a bedroom, weed that garden!
Make social plans: If you haven't seen certain friends in awhile, book outings with them-- are there music or county festivals coming up? Plan to go to one or two. Heck, even take your own trip. That may occupy your mind completely. And yes, your ex can and will handle the rare emergency that might occur. After all, he/she loves your kids, too.
Co-parenting is a lesson in patience. It is an endeavor that by its nature must be fluid and ever-changing--just as you and your kids are. Try to be as flexible as you can--you may want, or have, to change plans at the least minute, so give your ex the same grace.
In the end the kids are the winners. Less contention makes for children who know that, though they may not live with both parents all the time, they are deeply loved. And in the end, those kids grow into settled, thriving, happy adults. Is there a better gift you can give your kids?