Preparing for your child’s summer vacation with your co-parent

If you have primary custody of your child, and your co-parent typically sees them only during vacations because they live some distance away, then you’re probably getting somewhat nervous as summer nears. The upcoming extended time with their other parent can be a source of anxiety for everyone.

Let’s look at some things you can do to help make this time away a more enjoyable one for your child. If you’re fortunate, your co-parent will help. If not, you can still do your best.

Communicate with your co-parent

It’s important to review the rules and expectations your child is used to. When a child doesn’t regularly move between parents’ homes, it can be jarring to find completely different rules. You don’t have to agree on the small things, but it’s best if your child knows their parents expect the same standard of behavior. Let your child know that their other parent may do things differently, but your rules will still apply when they return.

Make sure your co-parent is up to date on anything that’s occurred since the last time they cared for your child, like health issues or new habits (good or troubling). If talking is difficult for the two of you, you can communicate via a shared online journal if you aren’t already. You owe that communication to your child.

Communicate with your child

No matter how you feel about your co-parent, talk with your child positively about their upcoming time with your co-parent. If they’re nervous about going or don’t want to go, let them express those feelings, but don’t encourage them. 

Make a plan for staying in touch and stick to it, but you don’t want to interfere with their time with your co-parent by calling and texting them all day. Help them get used to feeling comfortable being with their other parent without “checking in” with you or reporting back about things at that house all the time.

Your custody agreement and parenting plan should outline basic provisions for this time with your co-parent, like travel arrangements and expenses. If there’s anything that you believe needs to be added or modified before or after the summer, then talk with your family law attorney about how to proceed.