For the divorced parent with minor children, summertime is an excellent opportunity for bonding. Parents typically have large blocks of uninterrupted time without intrusions from school, extracurricular activities or the former spouse. Because there are so few summers available before children grow up, they are, in the words of American Express, “Priceless.” As a parent with two minor children who has never been divorced, though has experienced hundreds of divorces over a nearly 30 year career, I can attest to the value of uninterrupted summer bonding.
We all know that children change rapidly. They grow in size, sometimes at painful rates. They also grow emotionally at lightning speed. While every parent recognizes that children change quickly, most divorcing parents fail to recognize that beneficial timesharing arrangements also change at break neck speed. What an 8 year old wants from a parent’s time is dramatically different than the dreams of a 14 year old. I have seen parents aggressively negotiate or litigate specific timesharing schedules as if their timesharing needs with the children will never change. Taking a step back, we all know better. It is this author’s belief that children need our undivided attention and time even more as they grow older, though they may outwardly express otherwise. This is one of the many ironies of raising children. Consider further, as an example, that children tend to seek more individuality as they reach their teen years while simultaneously dressing and acting more like their peers. Sometimes children, even great children, simply don’t know what they want and need.
Many of my clients divide their summers with their children approximately equally. This is a time for vacations and close contact. However, what initially works for their young children may not later work well for their teenagers. Young children are typically thrilled with one-on-one time while teenagers might prefer to spend time with friends or a boyfriend or girlfriend. Being flexible and understanding is key. It is also important to work very closely with your ex spouse to make sure that your summer plans make sense for everyone involved. There is no replacement for planning ahead in order to avoid confusion and provide early and clear guidance for children. Vacations are always better when everyone is on board. I conclude with 2 paraphrases: “the only thing constant in life is change” and “parenthood is the hardest job on the planet.” The best of luck to us all.