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Planning for a stress-free summer break with your children

As if dealing with the fallout of divorce or breakup isn't hard enough, the upcoming summer break can add additional challenges to your custody situation and stress load.

While many parents address school holidays in detail in their parenting plans, not every possibility can be planned. When plans change and trips come up at the last minute, it's best for everyone - your children included - to be as flexible as possible. 

Sometimes it's not the schedule itself that causes problems in the summer, but different ideas on how children should spend their free time. One parent may want the children to go to camp while the other may feel it is too soon - or maybe the camp falls on a week when they would normally have the children. If both parents don't keep an open mind, disagreements like this could end up back in court.

There are some ways cut down on conflict and stress as you prepare for the summer. The first step is to plan ahead. Don't wait for summer to arrive before telling your ex you want (or don't want) the kids to go to summer camp. If the topic is brought up far in advance, no one can claim to a judge that they were taken by surprise.

Like camp, childcare should also be discussed far in advance. Summer break daycare can be surprisingly expensive to people who don't use it during the school year. By deciding ahead of time how to handle the cost, neither parent gets stuck with a bill they didn't budget for. Be realistic with your budget also. When planning camps and daycare, consider what the other parent can afford. Camp may not even be an option if you can't afford it. If that is the case, the kids don't need to know the details of who can't afford to send them to camp.

Try to separate summer schedule discussions from any other conflicts or disagreements you may have with your ex. Allowing your frustration from another issue to influence your approach to the summer conversation will only set you up for failure. If you absolutely can't let some things go in order to have a courteous discussion, or you and your ex can't come to an agreement, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a family law attorney.

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