Those long, warm days of summer are just around the corner.
Summer is thought of as a magical time for kids. It's a chance for them to shake up their routines, get outside, get dirty, learn something new and, most importantly, to have fun.
However, for kids of separated parents -- especially those who are already struggling with the transition to two homes, a new school, a new stepparent or stepsibling -- the switch to summer mode can feel like yet another form instability in their lives.
The good news? There are several steps that you can take on as co-parents to help your kids transition smoothly and joyfully into summer. After all, just because you are co-parenting does not mean you child can't have an exciting, carefree summer of their own!
7 Things to do right now to get your family ready for summer break.
1. Wrap up the school year well.
The final days and weeks of school are often filled with special events and varying schedules depending on your children's ages. Make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page about important events (graduations, honors nights, assemblies), schedule changes (half days, finals) and tasks which need to be completed (help clear out your child's cubby or locker, thank you notes for teachers) before summer begins. A smooth end of the school year sets the stage for gentle passage into summer.
2. Confirm the details of your summer child care plans.
With the kids out of school, as co-parents you are now jointly responsible for an additional 40+ hours of child care each week. Make certain you're in agreement about who will be care-taking during this extra time-- e.g.: a parent, nanny, daycare, camp, or combination of several -- as well as the cost and new schedule/routine required. This is the largest of all transitions to summer. Having both parents on the same page will help your child feel settled even amongst the change.
3. Map out summer activities.
Will your kids be participating in camps, teams, or lessons this summer? Take the time to jointly review the schedule, sign-up costs, pick-up and drop-off plans, and incidental expenses for each (Does Sally need a new baseball mitt and cleats for sports camp? Do books need to purchased for Johnny's art class? Should Micah rent a tuba for his lessons this summer?). By agreeing to scheduling and costs up front, you'll be able to avoid a host of potential disagreements over the next several months.
4. Make a plan for the holidays.
There are a number of holidays between the school year's end and start: Memorial Day, Father's Day, 4th of July, Labor Day. Determine how the kids are going to spend these holidays, who will have custody, and if that will alter your typical custody calendar. Perhaps, if your communication is particularly strong, you could even plan a tradition or event that everyone can be present for.
5. Schedule vacations.
The flexibility of the summer schedule often allows for one or both co-parents to take the kids for an extended trip or vacation. Make your co-parent knows and agrees to: the dates, costs, location and types of activities the kids will be doing while there. This type of communication promotes mutual respect and trust (and is often legally mandated, particularly if you are altering your typical custody schedule). While you're on vacation, you can use the Fayr app's geo-tagging capabilities to confirm your location with your co-parent.
6. Allow for down time.
All the above being said, please don't forget to set aside chunks of unscheduled time for the kids when they are at both houses. Down time is not the enemy of brain development or well-being -- quite the opposite is true. Idleness, leisure, and boredom are good for kids. Creating open space for "kids to be kids" prevents over-scheduling and it gives co-parents a brief reprieve from shuttling kids to and fro.
7. Share the plan with the kids.
In advance of summer break, set a time to go over the kids' new schedules and activities for the summer. This overview not only helps kids prepare mentally for the transition to summer, it gives them space to ask questions about the changes and to express any worries or anxieties they might be experiencing. In an ideal world, all parents and kids would be present at this meeting to ensure that the whole family is on the same page. If this is not an option for you and your co-parent, ensure that you've agreed to the 6 points above before each parent reviews the summer schedule with the kids at their respective homes.