I am a co-parent with the father of my two middle-school-aged children. During our most recent meeting to figure out part of the summer calendar, I think I almost lost it for a second. There’s traveling baseball, summer vacations, visits up north to grandma or grandpa’s house, the summer school program one of my kids was accepted into, etc. It’s a lot. Every activity or sport has a separate schedule (somewhere….is it online? What’s my log in for that site? Did one of us receive a flyer with the schedule? Did the other parent get it too?). The schoolyear provides structure and routines, which most kids—and adults—thrive on. The summer is more spontaneous and requires a lot of up-front planning to make it all go as smoothly as possible. Below are a few tips to set yourself and your co-parent up for success as you do your summer planning.
Meet with Your Co-Parent Well Before School Ends
It goes without saying that summer planning needs to be done in advance. Block a sufficient amount of time for you and your co-parent to sit down and work through the summer schedule. Come prepared with everything you need: the sign-ups, the schedules for each activity, the dates of any possible vacations you’re planning, your divorce decree or custody order, etc.
Work on the Calendar
A big part of your meeting will be working through your joint co-parenting calendar. Where is each child going to be on what day? Who will do pick up? Drop off? What sporting equipment needs to go from Home A to Home B? Does that level of detail need to be on the calendar for one or more of the parents? (I’m raising my hand here.) There are co-parenting communications apps with great calendaring options. But if you’re already using a more basic online calendar and that works well, then go ahead and keep using that so long as your decree allows it.
I, personally, think it’s best to jointly agree on who will be responsible for entering information on the joint calendar during the meeting. Maybe you switch off—mom calendars certain things and dad calendars others. If one parent really loves a calendar and wants to take on all the scheduling, then try that! Just make sure you’re both on board with whatever your roles are. Otherwise, you risk resentment building.
By the way, while writing this article, I became aware that Adina Lebowitz, MA (family mediator and coach) of Elan Health Twin Cities is currently offering a timely promotion, offering education to co-parents on developing and communicating better regarding summer schedules. Visit https://www.elanhealthtc.org/mediation to learn more about Elan Health TC and how to connect with Adina.
Don’t Forget the Downtime
Remember to build in down time for yourself, your co-parent, and your kids in your summer schedule! Being overcommitted is stressful. And why do that to yourself or your kids? Don’t forget that your child may crave the downtime that summers offer. They also may be eager to spend unstructured time with their friends, especially if they are in the tween or teenage group.
But while working time into your schedule to do nothing pre-planned at all, have a discussion and set some basic joint expectations for those times. For example, talk with your co-parent about what you’d like to happen during a typical summer day. Will there be summer bedtimes and wake times? If so, keep them relatively consistent between mom’ and dad’s house. How much screen time will be allowed per day? How much monitoring is needed? How will you communicate with your co-parent about the topic to ensure that you are holding your joint boundaries with your children? Do you have summer reading expectations for your children, and are you allowing them enough time to do that reading? If you have a teen, how much freedom are your comfortable giving? What will their curfew be? Obviously, no two households will run the same way. But, at the very least, try to make sure that it’s not a jarring experience for your kids to go back and forth! You and your co-parent can smooth the way for your children by communicating and doing the best you can do provide some consistency and predictability.
Deal with Costs
Cost sharing of summer activities depends so much on each parent’s individual financial situation. Of course, it also depends on the decree. But there are a few tips that apply more generally. First, ask your co-parent before you sign a child up for an expensive activity and expect them to help pay for it. If they cannot afford their share of the cost (and assuming the decree doesn’t provide any language to the contrary), honor that boundary. You still have choices most likely. E.g., perhaps you can pay for the activity on your own. You might seek financial help from a grandparent or other family member (or even a scholarship or community-based financial assistance). Or, you might find a lower cost option altogether.
When all the planning is done, kick back and have a wonderful summer!
If you need assistance with a co-parenting dispute or other family law matter, please contact Streit Law today for a free consultation or to retain Angela. Please visit www.streitlaw.net or call 651-237-3815.
* This article assumes a co-parent relationship that does not involve domestic violence (DV). Those situations need to be handled on a more case-by-case basis and with close attention to any applicable DV orders (an orders for protection, harassment restraining orders, etc.).