School is out and summer is officially here. Along with sunny days and fun outdoor activities, this time of year can also come with added stress for separated parents and blended families. Changing calendars and new co-parenting schedules can bring up a lot of emotion, but summer can also be a great opportunity to strengthen relationships and make new family traditions.
Here are a few co-parenting strategies and tips to help parents and children manage these changes and make the most of summer.
Sometimes when schedules shift, big questions will resurface. Be prepared for your children to ask, “Why?” all over again. When we suddenly have free time, nagging fears and emotions start to bubble to the surface, and this can definitely happen to children once school and homework no longer occupy their time.
Engage Your Kids with Good Communication
There’s no one “right way” to handle these conversations and questions because every family is different. Research suggests that kids tend to have the most difficulty when conflict between their parents makes them feel torn or caught in the middle, so it’s important to avoid making negative comments to or about the other parent when children are around. At the same time, you may be dealing with a lot, and it’s important that you find somewhere you can safely express your own feelings.
The same research also indicates that it’s helpful to:
- Give children enough information to lessen the uncertainty they may be feeling
- Listen and give children space to express themselves, but also give them space to quietly process what’s happening if that’s what they need
- Talk about these serious issues when doing an activity together, like taking a walk, making dinner, or playing with toys (depending on the child’s age)
If this is your first summer after a separation, it may mean breaking with certain summer traditions. Maybe you always camped at a specific campground, visited relatives out of state, or hosted a July 4th barbeque. Letting go of family traditions can be hard for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create new ones. Here are some tips to consider:
Make New Summer Memories
- Plan ahead to avoid conflict over dates of events and vacations (it can help to start with a schedule for when children will be with each parent)
- Find out what summer activities are important to the kids and see if you’re able to prioritize some of the items on their wish list
- As much as possible, practice good co-parenting communication with the other parent about schedules, logistics, and trips
- If childcare or summer camps are part of your summer plans, make sure both parents know who is taking responsibility for organizing them
The chaos of the summer shuffle on top of your other responsibilities can make it hard to get as much quality time with your kids as you want. When you do spend time with them, give them your full attention and make sure they know they are loved and cared for. Show interest in their activities, hobbies, and the time they spend with the other parent.
Give Your Children Some Extra Love and Attention
Summer is a chance to break free of your normal routine and do some new and fun things with your kids that they’ll remember forever.
Making some time for yourself is a great way to lessen summer stress. It could be as simple as 10 minutes of alone time on the porch or as involved as a getaway with friends on a weekend when the other parent has the children. Here are a few other relaxing self-care activities to consider trying:
Give Yourself Some Extra Love and Attention
- Meditate (try a meditation app if you’re new to it and not sure how to start)
- Go for a walk or run in the morning or evening when it’s not as warm out
- Prepare a nutritious meal for yourself
- Schedule a massage
- Get back into an old favorite hobby or learn something new
- Spend time with friends, family, or others in your support system
Summer can be a stressful time for parents and kids, but it can also be a fresh start, and a chance to refocus on the people and things that matter most. We hope these co-parenting strategies are helpful, and we hope you have a great summer with your kids. If you have questions about co-parenting laws, how to negotiate parenting time, or other issues, call us today.
If You Have Questions, the Family Law Attorneys at Gevurtz Menashe Are Here to Help.
Call our Portland office at 503-227-1515.
Or our Vancouver office at 360-823-0410.
Or contact us online to schedule a consultation.