The end of the school year is right around the corner. If you are waiting until the last minute to work out your summer parenting time plan, you could be setting yourself up for conflict, and your children up for disappointment. Find out what you can do to make everyone’s summer the best it can be.
In this blog post, I will explain how co-parents can avoid conflict by preparing their summer parenting time plans in advance. I will give tips to avoid last-minute scheduling problems, and suggest options for families struggling to resolve their disputes.
The best way to reduce conflict when it comes time to prepare your summer parenting time plan is to start early. Some couples and judges will write a set schedule for summer break right into their Minnesota parenting plan. Others will create deadlines for each parent to communicate his or her preferences for vacation weeks or parenting exchanges.
The earlier you start preparing your summer parenting time plan, the less stress you will feel as the deadline of summer break gets closer. By removing time pressures, you and your co-parent will be able to give your child’s needs and your own preferences the attention they deserve, and work toward a resolution everyone can be happy with.
Summer break can add a lot of stress to parents’ lives. Younger children need child care while their parents are at work. Older children may have summer jobs, internships, or athletic camps which will require transportation and coordination between co-parents. Children with special needs or learning difficulties may also benefit from summer tutoring or other educational options. That’s on top of family vacations, camping trips, and summer holidays that you or your co-parent may have planned.
It is important that any summer parenting time plan take your child’s needs into account, not just your own. It may seem like a good idea for the non-custodial parent to have more time during the summer, but what if she or he works full-time and will be hard-pressed to provide child care or transportation? You and your former partner will need to balance practicality and fairness to make sure everyone’s needs and goals are addressed.
When it comes down to how to meet those needs and work toward those goals, flexibility is the key to increasing happiness and decreasing conflict. While neither party should have to give in 100% of the time, there is value to asserting your rights and preferences in a way that is kind and considerate of the other person’s needs. Yes, you may be entitled to the 4th of July in your written parenting plan. But if your co-parent’s family is having a reunion that weekend and she or he is offering to give you Labor Day in exchange, the best solution may well be to be flexible, rather than standing on the language in your agreement.
There is no one right way to work out the details of your summer parenting plan, but many families are able to use technology to make things easier. For example, you and your co-parent could set up a shared calendar, either through a special co-parenting software, or just through Google or your iPhone. That calendar could help parents track:
With a shared calendar, agreeing to tweaks to the parenting time plan is easy. You can take overnights off here and add them there, so you are sure neither parent is giving up more than they have to. It can also make it easier for everyone to plan ahead, and give older children the ability to plan time with friends with confidence.
In an ideal world, co-parents would be able to prepare their summer parenting time plans easily and without conflict. Advanced planning, open communication, and the right use of technology would make it easy to resolve disputes and meet everyone’s goals. But even the most well-meaning parents need help resolving disputes sometimes.
When that happens, a professional mediator can meet with the parties and help them craft a solution without needing to go to court over the conflict. A mediator doesn’t make decisions for you. Instead, she helps propose solutions and guides the parties to their own resolution. When you leave after a successful mediation, you know that you and your co-parent are the authors of your own agreement, and that it was the best you both could agree on.
Kimberly is an experienced mediator with a successful record in reaching positive solutions for families. She can use facilitated mediation techniques to help you and your co-parent resolve your summer parenting time disputes outside the courtroom. If you would like to learn more about facilitated mediation, please contact Kimberly.