What to do with the kids? How to keep them busy? Which camp should they go to? How to deal with the huge expenses of childcare? These challenges, which every parent faces, become even more difficult for single dads. Here are some practical, hands on tips that can help divorced or separated dads plan for the summer with less stress, and less conflict:
Structure is key. Divorced or separated parents need to have a plan in place that defines ahead of time how their children will be spending the summers. It’s important to know in advance if your child will attend camps and when they will be vacationing with each parent. This structure will eliminate your kids from feeling anxious and allow them to look forward to the summer.
Plan expenses carefully. Every working parent knows that childcare is a huge expense and it might not have been a concern when you were married. However, divorced and separated parents need to have a specific plan and clarity about how these expenses will be handled so there are no surprises. This also eliminates the burden falling on one parent. Seeking help from a divorce mediator can make this a seamless process.
Work out schedules in advance. Make a plan with your ex- before summer break is upon you on the specific weeks when you will be spending time with your children. This avoids any unnecessary bickering over last minutes changes to your schedule. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, people leave their schedule flexible. While this may work for some divorced parents, it may turn out to be a disaster for others. Make sure you have structure to fall back on. You can always be flexible and change, but at least you have a plan in place.
Think of things from the other parent’s perspective. If you come up with a plan that works great for you, but does not work for the other parent, it would be a waste of your time and energy to be upset and resentful. Instead, try to consider their perspective. What is the other parent’s schedule like? What might work for them? This approach will help you come up with ideas that are more likely to be agreed upon more easily.
Don’t make it personal. Agreeing on the summer parenting schedule should be detached from any other conflicts that you have. It is easier to deal with problems when you divide them into smaller units. So only think about the summer plan. It’s important to not let the issues of the divorce influence your judgment as it relates to the summer plan. Parents need to put their feelings aside on how they feel about the divorce, any guilt they have and try to avoid outdoing the other parent. The goal for the summer plan should be clear, financially reasonable and easy, too. It is a two-month period of time and you need a plan. That’s all.
Look forward, not backwards. In order to plan successfully, look at any problems that might have come up in the past as far as the summer or as far as planning in a proactive way. Rather than being angry about conflicts that you might have had on these subjects, learn from them: what has triggered problems? What has worked? What might work going forward? The only way to deal with the past productively is if it is used for the benefit of everyone going forward.
Be realistic financially. Plan for the summer with a realistic budget in mind. Sit down and crunch the numbers and make an overall budget for the summer. Keep in mind what the other parent’s financial capability is and what they can and cannot afford. The fact that the kids are accustomed to a certain camp or a certain lifestyle means nothing if you can’t afford it.
Don’t involve the kids in details. Children don’t need to know who paid for what, who demanded what for them and who refused or agreed to do it. They need to know the plan for their summer and that both of their parents want them to have a wonderful time and look forward to the time spent with them.
If handled correctly, planning ahead will allow both parents and kids to have a fun and joyful summer that is free of conflict and full of exciting things to do with both parents. Remember, this is about the well being of the kids. A plan in advance will allow all involved to have a wonderful summer.