Most kids think summer is the most wonderful time of the year. The thought of being out of school for three months is supreme even to receiving holiday gifts. What is better than spending the day doing fun activities and no homework?
For co-parents, or families going through a divorce, summer parenting time can be challenging. Regular parenting time and summer parenting time typically differ, with summer parenting time oftentimes being extended because of vacations or busied with summer activities. For parents who work during the summer, it can be hard to keep children occupied.
With many parents working from home these days, the same issues are exacerbated. Kids are often left to their own devices during working hours, sometimes opting for video games and television rather than more productive or enriching methods of passing their time. Does this mean your co-parent is doing something wrong? Or neglecting the children? Not necessarily. Of course, if there are serious issues, for example, young children being left alone, you may have an issue, and the attorneys at GEM Family Law are here to help you.
Because summer parenting time can feel chaotic, it is helpful to create a schedule and a calendar of activities well ahead of time, for example, during the spring season. This is typically when summer camp, sport camp and other registration fees are due, so, planning the summer with your co-parent well before summer break starts can help everyone plan and leave less room for conflict. This is especially true when activities are going on during both parent’s parenting time, or when kids need to transfer things like bikes, sports equipment and swim gear between homes.
Parents also often choose to travel with kids during the summer months. This may lead to extended time away, which can be hard for parents and children. Do your best to support your kids’ plans with their other parent. Make it easy for them to go have fun, instead of making them feel guilty about going on vacation without you. Their summer should be carefree, fun, and full of happy memories. Ask for pictures when they return, talk about what they did; it shows your encouragement of their relationship with their other parent, so kids do not feel like they have to compartmentalize their lives. This is crucial to your kids’ mental and emotional health.
Of course, after three months of staying up late, snacking on junk foods and traveling, it is important for kiddos to get back into a routine, so that they are ready for school. Both parents should try to be on the same page and implement similar routines in their homes, such as a set bedtime, showering, reading a book instead of playing another video game, and eating on a regular schedule. While you cannot make your co-parent conform to your parenting style, you can have a productive conversation about what the “end-of-summer” transition looks like for your kids in both homes.
The summer, especially now, can be uncertain. Our seasoned attorneys at GEM Family Law can help you explore your options, so that you can strike the appropriate balance for your family this summer.
Written by Adeline Sulentich, Associate Attorney