WORDS: Lauren Gould
When the school year is coming to an end, and it’s time to start planning those summer breaks, family vacations can be an exciting time, even for blended families who co-parent their children.
It can be a time for a lot of fun summer activities, extended movie nights in the living room, more than just one board game on game night, and that long anticipated family vacation. Living in a family that co-parents, you usually begin the details for that planned vacation around the same time you ring in the New Year.
Blended families exist for several reasons, and consist of all sorts of loved ones uniting as a family unit under the same roof. Although a new-age definition to the modern-day family, blending, or co-parenting, has become the norm in 21st century living.
Co-parenting means that you are now in a business relationship with the other parent, and in planning events and trips, you need to keep the interactions on a business level rather than a personal level. You’ve likely already gone through the court dilemma, have an agreement, and are fully aware that in planning your perfect summer vacation, so is the other parent.
Thus, the reason to begin once the New Year has begun, not as a competition as to who will plan their trip first, but rather as a collaboration or courtesy so that you are able to begin making changes to any set-backs that may arise.
For instance, I have learned over the years, that planning in the month just before school lets out, often leads to the other parent having already booked their trip, with conflicting time frames.
Remember to extend the offer to the other parent to submit their plans to you first, giving them and the children the reassurance that you are supportive of their family dynamic and that you nurture the relationships they have.
In most agreements or parenting plans, the time frame for summer plans is mapped out, and in some arrangements, it is left up to the agreement of the parties. Co-parenting is not always tension-free, but you need to remain positive and explain your dates and schedules and coordinate to the best of your ability.
I have learned that sometimes having a calendar with labeled blocks of time sharing creates a better visual for the other parent, and it helps in the negotiations of extended summer time and other planned events.
Once you have the schedules decided for the children to take their trips, now comes the fun part of planning the vacation. Are you taking a scenic road trip, or possibly their first time flying? In my co-parenting family, we make sure that we share the details of the trip in fun ways, not necessarily is it just a detailed email of the itinerary.
Co-parenting is also about communication. One of the fun ways we have kept the other parent in the loop on a summer road trip was to snap and then send them photos of the children at mile-markers, or different signs, as we entered a new state.
There is a saying that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is a way to stay in touch while also letting the other parent know they are safe while traveling.
In a co-parent or blended family, you must remember that the communication does not stop when the children are on vacation. In fact, it can increase as the other parent or even the children may be nervous about travel arrangements and extended time frames away from either Mom or Dad.
I have learned in our ever-increasing world of technology, that having an extra phone, even a prepaid cellular phone for the trip, to allow the children and the non-vacationing parent the ability to have direct communication is a good thing, and phone calls should be encouraged.
When you are in an area with no cell service or poor reception, sometimes an email or social media message can be sent as a quick update, and then a follow-up phone call later from the children to reassure that the lines of communication will always be open.
When you return from your trip and begin to print photos of your vacation, make duplicates of the silly ones and of the moments you captured any of the children’s first-time experiences. Send these home with them to the other parent, not to brag, but to encourage the children to share their memories and details openly with the other parent. Even if they weren’t there with them, they can still experience the trip with the children in many ways.
Many parents are worried how their children will turn out living in a blended family with co-parents, but let me assure you that from my perspective, having two summer trips and two homes can be stimulating to children. You must remember as a co-parent to always encourage that relationship and bond with the other parent when you have the children with you.
Your children have this whole other extended family when they are not with you and you need to encourage them to embrace that family time. They have so many role models and relationships that will help shape the individuals they will become.
Blended families and co-parents exist for so many reasons. The reasons you are in a co-parent relationship should not be your focus, rather to be the best parent and communicator with your co-parent is your new focus. When difficult, leave the emotion out.
Family is family, blended in many ways. Don’t let certificates, paperwork, or documents, get in the way of encouraging your children to embrace and enjoy their entire family.