The end of a marriage isn’t just hard on the couple in question. Divorce can be tough on kids as well. Approximately half of all kids in America will see their parents’ marriage deteriorate. And 10% of those kids will witness or be a part of at least three more parental separations or divorces. Kids are resilient and divorce is certainly not a taboo topic anymore, but teens in blended or single-parent households are still 300% more likely to need psychological counseling during any given year than their peers in double-parent, nuclear households. Fortunately, co-parenting can go a long way to improving the stress levels and support the emotional health of your children. It’ll just take a lot of patience and pre-planning. This is especially true during post-divorce summer vacations. Here are some tips to get you started.
Plan Ahead First
Think carefully about how you’d like the summer to go with you, your kids, and even your ex. This can include summer activity schedules, work schedules, summer school, custody planning with the other parent, and even vacations. Share the info with the ex and get their take on it. Then discuss matters with the kids.
Talk to Your Children
You may think summer plans and vacation ideas began in your head, but chances are your kids had dreams and ideas about their summer break long before you did. You may have taken time off work or saved for a special outing, but this is their actual break. So give them some control over the situation, especially considering the fact that emotions are likely still high and they may still feel insecure about the divorce. Be sure to really listen and try to incorporate some of their suggestions if they work for your schedule and budget.
Communicate with the Other Parent
Set aside some time to discuss plans with the other parent and get their ideas on summer schedules and excursions. Then adjust your plans accordingly. Planning for the welfare of your children needs to be a joint effort after the divorce just like it was, or should have been, during your marriage. Try to take the high road, or at least temporarily put planning on hold, if tempers flare.
Support Your Children’s Relationship with Your Ex
Divorce trends are often seasonal, mainly occurring in March and August. So your co-parenting relationship may be brand new and the wounds may still be fresh. A positive outlook and attitude regarding the children’s “special time” with mom or dad are still necessary. This isn’t about you after all, it’s about the kids. Consistency is key. Little ones may be wary about spending extended visits away from their main home, but video chats, phone check-ins, and even daily emails can help establish and support their relationship with your ex at such a crucial point in their lives.
Avoid Overdoing It Or Trying to Be the Hero
Guilt is a powerful weapon, and children of divorce tend to master it quickly. Regardless of whether you’re the primary parent, guilt can sneak up and take over during special times with your kids. Suddenly a potential fun memory turns into a power play. The kids want something the other parent refuses to get–because they’re a mean tyrant and nowhere near as cool as you are, of course–and an overwhelming need to play hero overrides common sense. It’s a common scenario but one that’s unhealthy for building stable relationships and maintaining parental control. Yes, divorce can be tough on kids but it’s also tough on the parents. So instead of giving into everything, focus on being fair, fun, and family-centric.