Congratulations to all the hard working parents who are managing to raise their kids together while living separately - you made it through the school year! Homework is done, afterschool activities have concluded, end of year celebrations and performances are behind you and everyone’s doing OK. Now the real fun begins!
Many of us operate under the illusion that with summer comes a more relaxed timetable for the whole family, but oftentimes the frantic pace of morning and afternoon drop-offs and pick-ups and arranging care schedules has just been magnified. That plan you and your co-parent worked so hard to create and stick to during the school year just changed dramatically; please take a moment to acknowledge that you may ALL require a little time to adjust to this next transition. While it’s true that parents are not generally allowed the luxury of a full-blown morning meltdown like the kids will undoubtedly be treating you to soon when they decide they hate soccer camp or don’t want to spend another boring day at grandma’s, you ARE allowed to take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for keeping your cool when the heat’s turned up! (It may help to stick your head in the freezer for a moment or two).
As co-parents, you have made all the complicated advance arrangements for your kids’ care during the summer months that you can, and if you’ve managed to create a plan that covers every day of every week, congratulations again! For most, chances are good that there is a hole or two in your schedule which you just have to believe will get figured out as time unfolds. Perhaps kids are between camps or your daycare is on vacation? Whatever the challenge, this is the part where the strength of your co-parenting relationship will be put to the test, and your willingness and ability to be flexible and forgiving – as well as, perhaps, your employer’s - will be your key to success.
Sometimes co-parents can get so caught up in what’s laid out in the divorce agreement, or what’s fair in terms of who gets to spend more time with the kids or who is expected to find fill-in care for them when plans fall through, that they lose sight of their common goal. And it’s that common goal of raising happy, healthy and well-adjusted children who are shielded as much as possible from the responsibilities and problems of adulthood that should serve as your guide when faced with the inevitable logistical challenges of summer supervision.
At this time, it’s always important to remind parents that your kids didn’t ask for this. That is not said as an admonishment, but merely a gentle reminder that children deserve to be as far away from any discord over schedule wrangling as possible and don’t need any reminders that their parents don’t see eye to eye on every subject. Children of divorce and separation are well aware of this fact, and, like all kids, prefer to operate under the assumption that their parents’ world revolves around them and their needs and whatever challenges kids may present, their parents will figure out how to handle because they’re the adults.
So, deep breaths. Think ahead, be mindful of how hard transitions can be and how parents as well as children need time to adjust to change; make room for self-care, and for those inevitable moments of breakdown. But also think back. Remember the summers of your youth. If you were lucky enough to have some carefree ones, chances are pretty high that it’s because your parents – whether they were living together or apart - made you believe that they had everything under control (even if their heads were occasionally in the freezer) and you were free to luxuriate in the self-centeredness that is childhood and that allowed each and every one of you the freedom needed to grow and discover who you truly are.