Many divorcing couples work out a custody arrangement where one parent has primary custody of the child, while the other parent has the child during extended vacations and part of the summer. This can be a good arrangement if parents live some distance apart or perhaps one parent has a demanding or unpredictable work schedule.
Whatever the situation that resulted in this custody schedule, approaching that first vacation where your child will spend a couple of weeks or longer with their other parent can be a stressful and anxious time for both your child and for you. Let’s look at a few things that you and your co-parent can do to make this transition easier on your child.
Make sure your co-parent is up-to-date on your child’s life
It’s best when parents have consistent rules and expectations across households. Some things, like bedtime and screen time, will be different when a child is on vacation than when they’re in school. However, parents should maintain similar expectations on important matters.
Take time to talk or communicate in whatever way is most comfortable with your ex so they know what your child is used to. There are undoubtedly differences in your parenting styles and rules, but it’s best if your co-parent doesn’t have to depend on your child to tell them.
Be sure your co-parent knows about any developmental or other significant changes since they last saw your child. This could involve anything from a new allergy to a new best friend.
Talk to your child about their upcoming time away
It’s best to help your child look forward to their time with their other parent. Let them express any anxiety or concerns they have. Don’t make them feel guilty about leaving you.
Let your child take with them any special toys, dolls or other belongings that make them feel comfortable. They should also know that it’s okay to miss you and that you’ll keep in touch.
Set up a schedule with your child (and your co-parent) for when you’ll call or video chat. Stick to that and avoid intruding on your co-parent’s time with your child by finding excuses for calling, texting or otherwise reaching out to them.
As you get used to this custody schedule, you may find some things you’d like to codify in your parenting plan involving your child’s time with your co-parent. Your attorney can help you make these changes.