This time of year should be a time of celebration, excitement, enjoying our families, and taking time to relax, however for many parents divorcing and trying to co-parent, this time of year can be full of high emotions, anxiety, disappointment, and uncertainty.
co-parenting is not easy during the school year when the routine is fairly consistent. But this time of year; honoring mothers, honoring fathers, school getting out, & kids graduating has so, so many changes to the routine. Talk about all the strong feelings within divorcing parents!
Mothers and Fathers want to be honored and celebrated, but what if there are new partners in the picture? They want to be recognized too!
School routines are ending and decisions about summer activities need to be made. Plus, parents need to work (at least many of them do).
Summer vacation schedules for both parents need to be accommodated
Even for intact families, this time of year is hard to keep a routine with kids. For a divorced family, routine is especially important because it helps keep conflict lower and the focus on the children.
As a parent, you know that Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the end of School, Graduations, and Summer Vacations bring up a lot of different emotions ranging from joyful to stressful. As a divorced parent (if you are not yourself) these days can also bring up memories from living together as an intact family, expectations created, and future life desires for our children that may not happen. Seeking to understand the emotions of your clients and acknowledging these emotions can be the first step to helping them move beyond the past and look toward their future new life. Transitions are not easy for anyone. However, when you feel as though you are heard and understood by the people around you, you are able to move through it.
Creating a time-sharing arrangement that is consistent throughout the year helps minimize the number of times parents must negotiate the changes in time-sharing. Points of negotiation between parents opens the possibility for conflict, especially when parents do not have the skill sets to effectively communicate to each other. A solid structure year-round provides routine for the family unit, reduces potential conflict between the parents, and sets a schedule the children can count on – much easier for the entire family!
Consider defining the summer vacation dates for each parent within the parenting plan. You can also include language that states a date for when the parents must decide and a default fallback decision if either parent fails to communicate timely.
I know this is a buzzword, but helping your clients focus on the little moments of joy each and every day with their children will help them and their children in the new family dynamic. A therapist friend of mine recently told me that 95% of what kids learn is by what they experience with the people closest to them, not the words said. Children will be okay and adjust to their parent’s divorce when one or both of their parents model that this is a change in life that all are going through but it will be okay. In other words, healthy parents will mean healthy children! When parents focus on the little daily moments of joy with their children each and every day, their children will feel this, the parents will feel it, and the ‘big celebration days’ will become less emotionally charged.