When school lets out for the summer, it can be a challenging time for any family as they settle into their new normal. If you are recently separated, and now have two households, this can be especially difficult to manage. The keys to a successful summer, a specific event or a holiday schedule are the three Cs: cooperation, compromise, and communication.
“Studies show that shared custody situations work best when co-parents are cooperative, respectful, agree on shared custody, and manage their emotions,” says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies to Help Children Thrive Through Divorce. “These qualities make it more likely that parents will help their children adjust to family changes.”
So how do you implement the three Cs? It starts with understanding what’s best for you and your family. Younger children might have different needs than older children. For instance, a school-aged child might be attending several camps throughout the summer. Who will be paying for the camp? What will they need for the camp? And who will be doing the drop off and pick up? A teenager might be embarking on adulthood. What do you do about the graduation party? Who is hosting it or paying for it, or is it a joint party? And is your ex-spouse and their family welcome to attend?
Here’s a set of tips to help you and your co-parent navigate your family’s schedule this summer:
- Before the summer gets into full swing have an open dialogue about what the family has on their plate. What are the parent’s work schedules? Are there family trips or events planned? What kind of activities would each parent like to see their children participate in? Do the children have a preference for sports, theater or other camps?
- Bring a calendar and your phones or other tools/devices so that you can accurately plan and document the schedules.
- Make sure to talk about family vacations in the works so that you can both spend equal time with your child. Does grandma want to take the children to the beach? When? And will it conflict with a sports camp or the other parent’s vacation time?
- Determine what the budget is for summer travel, events or camps. Once you’ve decided what the budget is, book as soon as you are able. Camps and lodging fill up fast and you want to make sure that the requests are actually happening before you work around each other.
- Once you’ve agreed on the budget and schedule, put together a summer calendar that includes all details, dates, addresses, contacts and parent responsibilities, including drop off and pick up times, locations and logistical needs. Does the child need to bring clothing or lunch to the camp? Does the child need their birth certificate or other identification to fly?
- Check in on the schedule often. Also communicate with the other co-parent before and after any major event or trip. For example, before you leave for a week’s long vacation remind the other parent of the dates you will be gone, when you will return and when their time resumes.
- Constantly communicate. Things come up. Your child might decide he or she doesn’t want to go to the family reunion in Missouri. It might be a good measure of cooperation to offer that open time slot to your ex first. Then work on the revised schedule together.
- Enjoy one another. Remember that you are still a family and enjoying summer adventures together will bring you closer, even if the togetherness is a little different than it used to be.
- Use the Center for Out of Court Divorce’s Holiday Schedule Template or select a digital tool from this list of Co-parent calendar resources to help you get started.
Looking for additional support on how to be better co-parents after your divorce? The Center For Out-Of-Court Divorce offers post-decree support to families in Colorado.