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With spring break in the rearview mirror and the school year coming to a close, the countdown to summer has begun. It's the time of year that parents start to think about ways to keep themselves sane and the kids entertained for a two to three month stretch. As a co-parent, there may be a few extra steps and considerations that need to be made before jumping into the summer fun. However, with some planning and open dialogue with the child's other parent, it shouldn't be too difficult for everyone to enjoy their time.
Review Your Co-parenting Plan
Summer will inevitably bring about changes to your normal custody schedule. With your child out of school, new childcare plans may need to be put in place. Summer camp opportunities might take time away from a co-parent during their typically designated time. One or both parents may have plans for an extended vacation that bleed into the other parent's timesharing. And while you may already have a plan in place that addresses this timeframe, be prepared for the need to adjust your standard schedule and start having those discussions now.
The key is to have things planned out as far in advance as possible to avoid any double-bookings or hard feelings. It is also important to be flexible whenever possible. The primary focus should be to ensure the kids have ample time to enjoy their summer vacation with both parents and their family and friends. TalkingParents' Shared Calendar is an excellent tool for getting organized and coordinating your busy summer schedules.
Agree on Ground Rules
Without the constraints that early mornings, homework, and school activities present during the school year, your family may have a little more free time. Bedtimes might be extended, and the standard weekday guidelines may have some more wiggle room. Depending on their age, your child could also be staying home by themselves while one or both co-parents work.
It is best to maintain some consistency between households, so be sure to discuss things like bedtimes, chore expectations, and rules when your child is home alone with your co-parent. This will help ensure household transitions are easier and your child understands what is expected of them at both homes.
Remove Any Co-parent Competition
Neither household may be able to plan a lavish vacation or a summer break full of adventures and shopping sprees. Be mindful of this and discuss where monetary or time constraints could cause hurt feelings. Memories are created by spending quality time together focused on your child—not by who has the deepest pockets.
Your child shouldn't have to worry about hurting their parents' feelings, and they should never be in the middle of a "turf war" over which parents can give them more material things. Sometimes the simplest of activities can mean the most. If you need some ideas on things to do, check out our list of 110 Activities for Kids.
Let's face it, summer can get very expensive if you have kids. If both co-parents work, you may have additional childcare costs depending on the age of your kid. There are also sleepaway camps, sports programs, and a myriad of other activities your child could get involved in. Not to mention the fact that they will most likely need a wardrobe refresh because it is likely they've outgrown last summer's swimwear, flip flops, and play clothes. TalkingParents' newest feature, Accountable Payments, is a great way to keep track of your expenses and request and send payments between co-parents.
The earlier you start to plan for these additional expenses, the less stressful things will be on everyone. If these items are not accounted for in your current child-support plan, talk with your co-parent about how to share these costs accordingly. That way, there are no surprises.
Summer is a wonderful time of year to reconnect with your family, relax, and even visit somewhere new. To avoid any unnecessary stress or conflict, it is a good idea to start thinking about summer now and plan appropriately with your co-parent. Enjoy this special time with your child, and most importantly, have fun!
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.