Summer is the time for family fun, for trips to the beach or a theme park, and barbecuing with family and friends. However, this summer will be different for you. Divorce has split your family. Instead of taking trips together, you and your ex-spouse have had to agree on which days, weeks, or even months the children will spend with each of you. But this doesn't have to stop you from having fun with your kids and making great memories. It will take work and planning, but it will be worth it in the end.
To begin with, planning ahead is critical. You can't make plans at the last minute and expect everyone's schedule to fit in. Kids have summer activities, such as sports, community activities, and summer camps that have schedules set in advance. Their other parent may already have things planned that can't be changed, such as family reunions or trips that involve reservations.
However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't be flexible. Late spring and summer have holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day, holidays that may have special importance to one of you, but may fall during the other's week or weekend. Be sensitive and allow the children to spend that day with their other parent and hopefully he or she will give you the same consideration. Birthdays are also important. That includes thinking of your young children’s friends' birthday parties when that friend lives near the other parent and it falls on your day. And if one of those last minute opportunities does turn up unexpectedly, like the chance to spend the weekend water skiing, and you have nothing planned, let the children go. There's no need to deny them the treat just to prove a point to their other parent.
Let your older children and teens help make the schedule for the summer. Get everyone together and listen to all suggestions. You may not be able to use them all, but you will get credit for at least giving each child a say. Together, you may come up with one major activity and have time to make arrangements and reservations. Then you can tell the other parent about your plans, so he or she can mark it on the calendar. You may also suggest some things like day trips, trips to the beach, if you are close enough, movie nights or barbecues. Plan to go to the Fourth of July celebration, if it falls on your day, and maybe shoot off some fireworks. Allow them to invite their friends over. This helps with the transition to their new situation.
Also, don't forget what summer is all about for kids: doing nothing! Let them sleep in some and watch television a little more. If they want to be alone in their rooms reading or listening to music, let them. Not every minute has to be planned and spent with you.
And what about you? It's never a good idea to tell your children, “Go play, I need some time to myself” when they only have a short amount of time with you. Once they're with their other parent, however, you might be tempted to withdraw. Going out would mean seeing happy families having fun. Don't let yourself fall into that funk. Now's the time for “Me Time.” Get together with friends, maybe travel a little. With a quiet home, you could sleep in or tackle some of those chores you've been putting off. This way, you'll be rested and maybe have some new ideas when the kids get back.
This first summer will have some rough spots. Try to work them out without holding on to bitterness or blame from the divorce. After all, when it comes to the children, you're still a family. You will both be at the same baseball games or music recitals. Try to be amicable, and you'll have happy children with parents who might end up as friends.