Summer time… and the living is easy….or so the song goes.
If you are separated, you want to make the most out of your time with the kids. It is tempting to spend lots of money, schedule every minute of the day and do every activity possible with the children. Your time is limited so you want to make the most of it.
I know… because that’s my personality too.
Sometimes it is the mundane time spent together that can be the most memorable. Last summer my 15 year old son had to earn some money to contribute to his expensive mountain bike. Finding work for a 15 year old is nearly impossible so, I had him seal my paved driveway. As you can see by the photos, my 12 year old pitched in too!
I took the time off work to do the work with him. This clearly was not a good decision economically but it was a great lesson about the value of money to my son. It was hard work and took forever but over the course of the week, we got it done. Our driveway is now (in our humble opinion) the best sealed driveway in our community! He "paid off" his debt to me for his bike and we had some great time bonding while swishing tar over the driveway in the heat of the summer.
It wasn’t a trip to Disney Land but it stands out as one of the best events of the summer last year. My sons and I were working together. It was great.
Richard Sharp, a lawyer in England, in his excellent blog called Family Law Collaborative Divorce did a post about summer time access in which he offers good advice for separated parents about summer access.
My last blog was called "Five Ways to Resolve Summer Access Scheduling". Richard’s blog offers complementary advice. Richard writes:
• Do plan early and commit to decisions made – Plan the arrangements for the summer holidays as early as possible. If you commit to doing something make sure it is followed through. Last minute clashes and changes are not easy to resolve. Children need their parents to make decisions and to stick to them
• Do support your child’s contact with the other parent – Be positive about your child spending time with their other parent. Let the children know it is OK with you that they are going away and that you will be OK too whilst they are away. It’s best for kids when both parents can be supportive of their activities and share in their excitement.
• Do help children maintain contact with the other parent – Provide the other parent with contact information and details as to where the children are going to be and who with. Let the children communicate with the other parent whilst away.
• Don’t talk through the children – It is tempting to relay information through the children when talking with the ex is difficult. But messaging between households is a burden children shouldn’t have to bear. Make sure you are the one delivering news about trips you are proposing to take and scheduling needs surrounding them.
• Don’t ambush the other parent – When making holiday plans, don’t set the other parent up. “I would really love for you to come with me to Spain, but it’s really up to your Mum to say yes” is neither fair on the child nor Mum. Instead, “A trip abroad would be lots of fun but before we can make plans, I need to talk with Mum to see if we can work out the details.”
• Don’t make your kids pay the price – If you make a decision to foot the holiday bill or move your schedule around to make a trip work, don’t make your kids pay the price. Whilst a trip abroad may be a wonderful experience for the child, it probably won’t be so wonderful for very long if the child has to listen to what Dad did or didn’t do to help. Children do not want to take sides – don’t make them.
And finally …..Conflict is the major cause of unhappiness and poor outcomes for children. Let’s have family fun in the sun this summer by focusing on the needs of children.
Summer holidays are a great opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with your children. Enjoy every moment together. Swish some tar on your driveway together.
Don’t forget the old saying: "families that spread tar together, stick together!" …. or something like that….