For parents of school-aged children summer break from school can be a challenging time. The biggest challenges are keeping your children occupied and finding child care (assuming both parents work). These challenges may be compounded with separated parents.
Here are some tips and ideas to consider when developing your parenting plan to alleviate frustration when it comes to summer breaks:
1. Alternate Summer Time Schedule: Most parenting plans provide for one parenting time schedule that is followed year round. There are usually provisions for vacation time to each parent, but nothing specific as to parenting time guidelines during the children’s release from school.
Having the same parenting plan year round may be great for some families; however, even if you utilize the same parenting plan, you may need to revisit the specific schedule to see if anything needs to be tweaked (for example, exchanges at school probably won’t work anymore).
For high-conflict parents, limiting exchanges may be best. Parents may want to consider longer durations of time with each parent during summer months, such as switching from a 5-2-2-5 schedule to a week on/week off schedule.
Some parents may create two separate parenting plans. One plan for the school year and one plan for the summer. This is very common for long-distance parenting plans, but can also be done for parents living in the same area. Here, one parent may be the primary parent during the school year, and then the other may be the primary parent during the summer.
2. Child Care and Camps: If both parents work, then there will need to be some discussion and agreement about who will be watching the children during the summer and whether they will be attending camps. Parents should consider including provisions in their parenting plans for who is responsible for finding child care and/or camps, when the arrangements need to be made by, and who is paying for the costs.
Parents should also consider whether another family member, even if out of state, may be able to provide child care during the summer months. While this may cut into both parents’ parenting time, it may be the most cost-effective route to go.
3. Vacation Plans: Parents frequently take children on longer vacations during the summer months because it does not interfere with school. Make sure your parenting plan has specific provisions about how much vacation time each parent may exercise, when notice of a vacation should be given, what information must be exchanged regarding contact information, and whether there are any additional requirements to get approval from the other parent for out of state or out of country travel provisions.
4. Anticipate Issues Early: Almost every school has online access to their calendar and thus all parents should know when school will be released and when it will resume. Parents should work together before school ends to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding summer plans. If there are any anticipated issues with the summer schedule, address it with the other parent as early as possible, consider mediation or contacting your Parenting Coordinator, and if necessary, an attorney to help clarify or modify the schedule as needed.
5. Keep Children’s Best Interests In Mind: Regardless of what your parenting plan says, parents should always keep the children’s best interests in mind. This may mean that for parents of older children that they listen to what their children want to do as part of the decision making process. If a child wants to spend time with their friends, or attend a certain camp, or even go out of state to visit their grandparents, the parents should work together to make sure everyone’s summer is enjoyable.