Summer can be a great source of excitement for many children and families, as well as a source of anxiety. When those school doors shut, parents are left to manage their children’s open agendas, often while managing their own work schedule. This can be especially difficult for divorced parents as they try to navigate a new, temporary parenting plan until school is back in session. Depending on a family’s unique situation, the need to modify summer parenting plans may arise. If parents don’t have a provision set in their co-parenting agreement on how to modify a plan, the easiest option parents have is to work together to reach an agreement that can be filed with the court. Understandably, reaching an agreement with a former spouse can be easier said than done, so here are four tips to help parents reach a compromise to change their summer parenting plans.
Communicate with Each Other for a Healthy Co-Parenting Relationship
If parents cannot agree on a modified parenting plan, they’ll need to go to court to make the requested change. This requires the filing of a petition to change the custody order, followed by a custody hearing. Parents can avoid this time-consuming process by practicing healthy communication so they can come to an agreement, submit the request to court and get faster approval. The use of a mediator and/or co-parenting apps can help smooth this cooperation.
- Mediator: Parents may have an easier time resolving summer vacation disputes in front of a neutral decision-maker. A third-party viewpoint may also help parents to look at situations logically, rather than emotionally, and consider what is really in the children’s best interest.
- Co-Parenting Apps: Utilizing co-parenting Smartphone apps can be effective for multiple reasons – they allow information to be verified in court, they can connect families with remote Family Law professionals who can mediate conflicts, and they can help parents remain connected on their children’s schedules without having to text or call one another.
In addition to making modifications to parenting plans easier, research has shown that healthy communication in co-parenting relationships is a key mechanism in predicting the mental health of children and adolescents after marital dissolution. Simply put, “children need both parents,” Rebecca Smith, Licensed Professional Counselor and founder of the Counseling Center of Montgomery County, Texas, says.
Develop a “Give/Get” Flexible Mindset about Changing Visitation
Life can be unpredictable. On the occasion that a revision to the summer parenting plan is requested, it’s beneficial for both parents to consider the request before immediately denying it. Perhaps, grandma is in town the weekend that the children are supposed to be with their mom. Children may benefit from this time spent with their paternal grandparents, especially if they don’t get to see them often, and swapping one weekend for another may not have many repercussions in the grand scheme of things. Considering these issues–the children’s best interest, the children’s wants, the “big picture” and the frequency of the amendment requests–can benefit families in the long run. This flexible and understanding mindset works best if both parents adopt it. If one parent is doing all the compromising and the other is constantly denying revision requests, resentment can build. If this is an issue, parents can resort back to the above communication tips and let the other parent know that they should be willing to deviate from the visitation schedule, as well.
Maintain as Much Normalcy as Possible
With two households and an unfamiliar schedule, summer can entail a great deal of change for children of divorced parents. How they adjust to this change can depend on a variety of factors, including their age, how recent the divorce was and the location proximity between parents. In any circumstance, parents can help smooth this transition by maintaining as much normalcy as possible: the same rules, same friends/recreation and the same parents, whether together or apart.
- Same Rules: As children navigate between two households, it’s helpful if parents align on a set of universal rules. This can include bedtime and technology time, as examples. A loosely defined set of rules can make transitions between households less confusing, and also prevent children from resenting one parent for being “the strict one.”
- Same Friends and Recreation: While non-custodial parents may want to take full advantage of their time with their children, it can be helpful to balance in social time with friends or recreation that they’re accustomed to at their “home base.” This can help ease any worries or anxieties children have with too much change, too fast, and also allow parents to get to know their children’s interests and their children’s friends.
- Same Parents: When parents split up, it’s important to let children know that both parents still love them wholeheartedly. Two ways that parents can show their children that they are there no matter what is by allowing frequent communication with both parents. Letting children know that the other parent is just a phone call, text or video call away can help alleviate any feelings of abandonment and help build relationships with both parents.
Account for Alcohol-Dependence (If Applicable)
When alcohol dependence is a factor in a co-parenting relationship, it can make establishing a parent-child relationship increasingly more difficult. However, this added obstacle is not insurmountable. Parents who have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) have many options for maintaining contact with their children, including supervised visitation and remote alcohol monitoring.
- Supervised Visitation: Depending on the severity of the family situation and the court order, supervised visitation may be the starting point in reuniting parents and children. Having a mediator involved in parenting time may feel unnatural, but it can be a building block to establishing independent visitation in the future.
- Remote Alcohol Monitoring: The least invasive option, according to Smith, is Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring device. Depending on a family’s unique situation, they can establish the designated program and testing schedule that is right for them. This helps to ease one parent’s concern about the other’s sobriety by ensuring the safety of the children. It also allows the recovering parent to bond with their children without a physical mediator present. “Soberlink allows parents to maintain a natural, normal life together,” Smith says, adding that parents are usually quick to agree to use Soberlink, “because at the end of the day… their goal is to be with their kids.”
While it may be tough for parents and children to grow accustomed to a new summer parenting plan, it helps to allow some flexibility. By communicating with each other, developing a “give/get” mindset, maintaining a sense of normalcy and accounting for Alcohol Use Disorder (if applicable), parents can stay afloat during the changing tides of summer to create memories that will last a lifetime.
About the Author
Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and technology includes facial recognition, tamper detection and real-time reporting. Soberlink proves sobriety with reliability to foster trust and peace of mind.