If you’re recently divorced, summer could look a lot different this year. When kids are involved, summer break – and especially family vacations – may be difficult to navigate. Although there’s not one, perfect solution to ensure harmony, the right approach and a positive attitude go a long way toward making the summer enjoyable and memorable for all. Let’s take a closer look:
- Plan ahead and coordinate. It won’t be easy to plan summer schedules while school is still in session, but waiting until summer could be too late. If you and your ex-spouse are not already using a shared calendar or co-parenting app, this is a great time to take advantage of technology to keep track of camps, holidays, birthdays, vacations and more. When everybody has the same information, it’s much easier to communicate and avoid conflicts, especially when planning special trips or events with your kids. Whether you pursue this option or not, make sure you get everything in writing and work hard to avoid last-minute changes that could disrupt plans.
- Be realistic and fair. Hurt feelings and resentment often accompany a divorce. Even if the decision to separate was mutual, the circumstances can be tough on families. It helps to approach summer vacation with a level head related to your expectations and those of your children and ex-spouse. Consider your budget for trips and activities, and remember that you and your co-parent will need to build in some downtime as well. The changes that come with divorce can be hard on children. Don’t make it more difficult by using your kids as messengers or involving them in parental discussions, such as who’s paying for what.
- Focus on the positives and be mindful of others. Even with adequate planning and coordination, there will be challenges. Maybe you’re worried that a vacation with just your kids will be lonely. You could be anxious about missing your kids while they’re on vacation with your ex. These are all normal and understandable concerns. It helps to focus on the positives, such as creating new memories and pursuing new interests. Talk with your kids about the trips and activities they experience with your ex, and share their excitement. Keep in mind that your ex is experiencing some of the same challenges. Help each other out by staying in close contact.
Are you and your ex-spouse considering a family vacation together? Even divorced parents who get along well should proceed with caution when this is the case. Children may misinterpret what this special trip means for their family. Be clear and upfront about its purpose so you kids don’t get false hope for a parental reunion. Above all, if a family vacation will be painful for one parent or both parents – or it doesn’t seem likely that both parents will get along for the duration of the trip – it’s best to travel separately and revisit the topic when relations improve.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.