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Summer Vacation


Hay nap

Summer Vacation is just around the corner — only a few weeks away!  I know, it’s hard to believe, and that means trips, child care, and camp.  To make sure that you and your co-parent are on the same page, make sure to review your parenting orders and start planning now.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Give timely notice of your vacation plans, if it’s required by your orders.  Don’t wait until the last minute to let your co-parent know your vacation dates.  Remember, holidays trump vacation, so pay attention to Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays.
  • Provide a detailed itinerary, including mode of travel, route, flight numbers (if applicable), hotel or lodging information, phone numbers, and departure and arrival times.  No, it’s not too much information and it’s not about control or permission.  This type of information can be critical in the event of an emergency situation.
  • Coordinate the child care or summer camp that your child will be attending so that there is no unnecessary overlap or expense.  One-sided decisions about where Joey and Suzi will be spending their summer days is not endearing to your co-parent!
  • Extended family visits require additional coordination.  If you want the kids to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for a month during the summer, consider how that may impact  your co-parent’s summer plans before you make a promise you can’t keep.  First, talk it over with your co-parent to find out if it’s feasible and then consider whether the two of you want to agree on some “make up” time.  Some co-parents simply agree that time away from both parents is “regular” parenting time and there is no “make up” time.  Others conclude that if the kids are with Mother’s family, then it counts as Mother’s parenting time and vice versa.
  • Disneyland or hinterland?  Who gets to decide?  A dangerous game that some co-parents like to play is one-upsmanship.  Dad announces that he’s taking the kids camping in the wilderness of Wyoming, so Mom tells the kids that is the same time she intended to take them to Disneyworld, but “we’ll let the kids decide.”  No, no, no.  While it’s healthy for kids to experience all kinds of vacations with both of their parents — including lousy trips that result in years of story-telling fodder — it’s not healthy for parents to compete and it’s NEVER okay to put the decision-making authority on the kids.  If there is a scheduling conflict and your orders are not clear as to preference, then whomever declared the intention first should have dibs.
  • Who pays?  Generally, the parent taking the children on a trip will pay their way; however, some families manage it differently.  For example, if you both harken from Chicago and want the children to spend time with both families over the summer, it makes sense to share their transportation expenses.  One of our former clients shares the cost of a vacation home in California.  Mom and Dad rent the beach house for a month, with mom going for the first two weeks and dad going for the second two weeks.  The kids have the best deal:  they are on the beach for a whole month without interruption.

The most important thing to keep in mind is this:  your children deserve a happy childhood, so do your best to make sure that they have ample time with both parents and some real quality time with you both.  Try to remember back to your own childhood summers — what are the things you remember most fondly?  I remember things like floating on an inner tube on the lake, catching fireflies in a jar with my cousins, eating Grandma’s homemade peach ice cream on the back porch, and endless hours riding my bike in the park. 

Now, can you recreate that type of experience for your own children?  Can you, in the process, create a little pocket full of your own sweet memories?  Share your best summer co-parenting experiences in the comments section, below, and inspire all of us!

Choose Peace ~ it’s more fun!

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