Kids wait all year for summer vacation. But when parents are divorced or separated, summer vacation becomes more complicated. Kids look forward to long days with their friends doing nothing. When they have a parenting schedule to live with, summer loses some of its fun. Your child needs to spend time with both parents – that’s a given. So how do you keep the parenting schedule from messing up your child’s summer dreams?
Plan around it. If you and your child dream of lazy days at the beach or crazy afternoons at an amusement park, plan your family’s schedule around the parenting schedule. Try to work, clean the house, or do volunteer work while your child is with the other parent. Save the big events for days when your child is with you. If you have children and step children with conflicting schedules, talk with both sets of parents and look for a way to make adjustments so that you can all have family time together once in a while.
Welcome friends. One of the biggest concerns kids have about schedule is not being able to see their friends. Make it clear friends are welcome at your home anytime. If you’re the non-custodial parent, go the extra step and offer to drive the friends (who probably live near your child’s other home) to your home.
Make other plans. Whether you’re the custodial or non-custodial parent, it’s impossible to be with your child the entire time he or she is at your house. Look for alternatives that will keep your child happy and occupied while you’re busy. Look for a class or day camp that ties into his or her interests – zoo camp, art camp, soccer camp – the choices are huge. Planning this activity will give your child something to do and will ease any guilt you might feel (you shouldn’t!) about not being completely available.
Think of yourself. Be sure to plan some adult fun for the days your child is away. You’re supposed to enjoy the summer too and those days on your own are the perfect times to explore new places, meet people, and expand your own horizons.
Remember what it’s like to be a kid. There were plenty of times when your idea of a good time was sleeping till noon, spending 4 hours in front of the tv, or plugging yourself into a video game. The same probably holds true for your child. Let him or her have time to just veg. You don’t need to plan excursions and events every time your child is at your home. Let there be time for just being a kid.
Relax. Stop pressuring yourself to create the perfect summer for your child. If you look back you probably will find that your favorite summer memories are of small, everyday things. You’re not a cruise director; you’re a parent. There’s a lot to be said for quiet dinners on the porch, picnics in the backyard, ice cream cones on a hot night, and fun in the sprinkler together.