Summer Parenting Time
5 Things to keep in mind for a successful summer vacation and a long-distance parenting plan.
Remember how great summer vacation was when you were a kid? No school. No homework. Just long afternoons spent playing with friends and family. After a separation, many children spend their summers with out-of-state parents or even extended family. Particularly, children who live with one parent during the school year. These summer visits can create great memories for a child. They often include a chance to bond with family they don’t see during the school year and fun summer activities.
Regardless of whether it is long-distance or summer vacation, the goal for each parent—to make sure their child has these positive memories and close relationships with both sides of their family.
Open communication and keeping the child’s best interest in mind are the keys to successful co-parenting. Here are some things that both parents can do to make sure that the summer parenting time goes right:
1. Plan ahead.
Work together on picking the summer schedule in your parenting plan that works best for you and for your children.
Arizona has a public policy to maximize each parent’s time with the child, for the child’s benefit. When parents live in different states, this generally means that the parent who doesn’t have their child during the school year will have a significant chunk of summer vacation time.
Generally, we see the non-residential parent receiving anywhere from three to six weeks each summer. Travel costs are typically agreed upon and discussed to reach the long-distance plan.
2. Be flexible.
Communicate possible opportunities for the child to visit and be flexible on the summer schedule.
We must keep in mind that children have summer activities, and the primary residential parent should also get some summertime, including summer vacation time. The time with the parent who doesn’t have the child during the school year needs to remain an absolute priority, but every schedule is different.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the time must come at the expense of other summer activities. The parents should communicate, identify opportunities that are out there for the child (such as baseball camp or a family reunion), and see if they can come up with a summer plan that allows for time with the non-residential parent, vacation with the primary residential parent, and participation in summer activities.
3. Talk about the child’s well-being.
Before the child goes, the parents should discuss the child’s needs and travel plans to keep surprises to a minimum.
Summer parenting time often goes awry when parents are not communicating with each other. Parents know how fast kids grow and how quickly things can change. A child’s needs, issues, and friendships change during the school year. Having conversations about the well-being of the child allows for continuity of care and a smooth transition from one home to the other.
4. Keep in touch.
Make sure communication between the child and the other parent is on-going.
Your child’s transition will also be smoother if they’re in daily contact with the other parent. This is true whether they’re talking with the non-residential parent during the school year or the primary residential parent during the summer. These conversations deepen bonds and can help the child quickly feel comfortable in either parent’s home, thus easing their transition between the two homes.
Don’t attempt to take away the other parent’s time.
Summer schedules go sideways when one parent threatens to either not send the child or not return the child. In some cases, they follow through on those threats, which can have huge negative impacts on the child who is suddenly and without warning had their lives uprooted and thrown in the middle of a heated, urgent custody matter, and, in some instances, not even permitted to go to school when it resumes. If you have concerns about your child in the other parent’s care, the appropriate thing to do is modify the parenting schedule through the court ahead of time.
This is about your child, not you and the other parent. Both parents should work toward creating a safe and carefree summer for the child. Remember to keep the child’s best interests at the heart of your communication and compromise. When in doubt, seek the advice of an attorney and learn if you need court intervention.
Want more? Visit the sister-blog Changing the Parenting Plan Without the Court.