1. Be as specific as possible
Since summer is often ripe for spontaneous adventure, try to think creatively about possible situations that may arise. You and your co-parent may get along with perfect ease and neither of you mind making last minute plans, especially those that cater to your child’s enjoyment; however, even in the healthiest of relationships, disagreements often arise. Think of your detailed parenting plan as a fallback if/when you’re not able to agree. If you are not on the same page, turn to your plan and stick to what the Court ordered. This way you avoid a win-lose situation, knowing that the plan was established specifically for the purpose of resolving dispute in the moment. If possible, work together to review the plan in advance and put down in writing how your children will be cared for in anomalous summer situations (i.e. air travel plans are delayed, closures due to COVID-19 waylay schedules, one parent has an unexpected obligation and needs to hire help, etc.)
2. Compromise and avoid competing
You may well end up having to give up something you want in favor of something you really want, which likely is your child’s happiness and well-being. Rather than considering what would make you happiest this summer, ask your children what they are most excited about. Keeping their responses in mind may help you and your co-parent put their interests first rather than getting caught up in how you can each achieve maximum time with your children. Though summer certainly lends itself to quality time with the kids, the goal should be providing them a stable environment, not trying to beat out your ex-partner for the most time or most fun activities. Further, trying to out-do your co-parent with elaborate trips or experiences is missing the point. In the long-term, your children are more likely to be positively affected by a healthy home life and stable parenting than one summer of overly competitive excursions. Just like the holidays, this is not the time to one-up your co-parent with extreme gift-giving or spoils.
3. Give your plan room to change
Seeing as kids grow up wildly fast, consider re-visiting your parenting plan frequently. Schedule periodic check-ins or meetings to make sure that the current plan is still serving your children. You might even find that planning months in advance has proven unrealistic and shorter, more manageable time frames are the way to go. This also gives your children room to grow and change. As their interests take new angles over the summer or they are suddenly much more invested in a sport or hobby than ever before, you and your co-parent will have the space to respond if you’ve both agreed on regular updates to the parenting plan. That being said, travel plans need often be implemented weeks or months in advance, so do make sure that the two of you understand and acknowledge plans that can’t be altered. Also, always keep in mind that although you and your co-parent may agree to changes, those changes will not be enforceable by a court unless you file a modification action and have the judge approve your new plan.
4. Prioritize communication
Even if you have enumerated plans in writing and engage in frequent, cordial discussion, you and your co-parent should also be in agreement about how you will communicate last minute plans or updates to each other. This should never be through your children. Asking your children to relay messages to the other parent may put them in an uncomfortable position, or a disagreement may arise simply as the result of miscommunication. Similarly, discuss how your children will be allowed to communicate with each of you when in the other’s custody, especially if traveling abroad. Make it clear to your co-parent in advance of travel plans whether or not your children will have access to phones, email or texting and if he or she should expect regular communication from the kids. Being in your custody does not mean that, during those windows, your child will be henceforth cutoff from all communication with your ex-partner. Know that your ex-partner is your children’s parent too and they may want or need accessible communication with the both of you at all times to feel supported and steady.
5. Enjoy your summer!
After you’ve made plans with your kids, you may find yourself with more down or alone time than in years past. Take this as an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with things you enjoy. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to travel to a certain destination but never did in favor of compromise with the whole family. Maybe you’re seeking a new hobby, more time with friends, or the chance to visit older family members who have been recently vaccinated. Giving yourself space to refresh and prioritize physical, emotional and mental well-being by visiting a dream destination, catching up with a friend or honing a skill will thoroughly benefit you and your children in the long run.