Sharing Custody on Summer Vacation

Dealing with summer vacation and sharing custody can be a challenge for everybody. Younger kids may look forward to vacations with dad or mom, but older kids wait all year for summer vacation with pals, and the thought of leaving friends to cope with their divorced parents' schedule may be met with more than a little resistance. So how do you keep the parenting schedule from messing up your child's summer plans?

The key to a stress-free visit is cooperation between parents before the child arrives. But when divorced parents are at odds, cooperation is the last thing on their minds. Divorced parents report that "cooperation and organization" are two of the biggest obstacles they face.

Whether you're going on a planned vacation to Disney World or just hanging out at home, here are a few tips to help you get organized for visiting kids and to help prepare kids who are visiting a parent they may not live with full-time:

  • Be sure you and your ex reach an agreement on what your child needs for the vacation and who will supply the extras. For example, will your child need dress clothes during her visit? Decide ahead of time who will supply them and whether those items need to return with your child at the end of her stay. It's helpful to put a checklist in your child's suitcase so that both parents and child know what was sent and what should be returned.
  • Organize your child's room before he or she arrives. Or, if he will share a room with a full-time kid resident, set aside a drawer or two for clothes, or clear a shelf in the closet. This will help the visiting child feel like he has his own space — and the child sharing the room won't feel as intruded upon. (If your resident kid must share his room with your visiting kid, remember to ask him, "Which drawer would you like Billy to use while he's here?" rather than demand, "Billy will be using your chest of drawers while he's here. Move your stuff!"
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