How to keep your summer cool

Summer is in full swing and with it trips to the shore, barbeques and summer vacations. Spending time with the kids on a special outing makes for some of the best family memories--but what happens when you're a divorced parent and have to work with your ex to plan extended time with your kids? Can it be amicable or is it destined to be fraught with conflict?

While most divorce agreements spell out time with the kids in the summer, are there dos and don'ts that make it easier? Read on for some ideas that can make your summer plans easy breezy.

Plan ahead

While the thought of navigating your summer plans with your ex may make you feel stressed, planning ahead can make negotiations easier. Many divorce agreements specify a time period--for an example, two weeks--for alerting your ex that you will be taking your kids outside the normal parameters of your agreement.

But why wait? The sooner you know you would like the kids for two weeks in August, the better to tell your ex. This gives your ex time to plan around it, and can create goodwill that might just be extended to you as well.

While your kids are away

It's no secret that an empty house can feel, well, empty! Many busy parents dream of having some time to themselves. But when the kids leave with your ex and you shut the door behind them, it can seem awfully quiet in your home. Suddenly all that time alone doesn't seem quite as nice as having a house full of activity.

Rather than letting the time slip by, consider making some concrete plans for yourself. Always wanted to take a road trip to Cape May? Now is the time. Thinking a weekend in Philly sounds appealing? Sing yourself up! Tackle those closets, clean out the basement, dig into that pile of books by your bedside. The kids are having fun--and you should too! They'll be back before you know it, and they'll have stories to tell. Why not have some of your own as well?

Relax and have fun

You may be used to having regular contact with your kids when they are with Mom/Dad. But resist your urge to call or text. Summer vacation with the other parent is a special time and think about it--would you really want your ex calling and texting the kids while you stood in line at Disney World?

Being mindful of the boundaries surrounding vacation can help alleviate tension between you and your ex. You may feel like you need to check in just to make sure that the kids are all right. But remember, your ex is their parent, too and can handle an emergency if it arises. Let your kids know you trust them and the situation by giving them space with their other parent.

In the long run...

When it comes to co-parenting, co-operation is key. You may not want to be married to your ex anymore, but, like it or not he/she is still a member of your family. Working together toward amicable agreements can reduce your stress level and that can only have on a positive effect on you and your kids. In the long run, it benefits everyone.

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