With summer almost here, divorced couples with children will once again be doing the shared custody dance. As the established school schedule melts away quicker than an Eskimo Pie in Alabama, suddenly you’re faced with juggling vacations, camps, team practices, trips to grandmas and more. For divorced parents, summer can feel like like anything but a vacation.
But for couples who have found themselves in an amicable post-divorce relationship, the summer months may go easier. In fact, some exs have found a way to continue the family tradition of vacationing together long after the bonds of marriage have fallen away. It may sound crazy, but it is possible to set aside differences and head to the beach or theme park with your children.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune explored the ups and downs of ex-cations and came up with following suggestions from clinical psychologist John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Expert Advice for Raising Successful, Resilient, and Connected Teens and Tweens.
Although Duffy believes that co-vacationing can be a great example of how adults can set aside their differences, he cautions jumping into the deep end of the ex-vacation pool too soon. Here are three important tips to keep in mind if you’re considering a shared family vacation with your ex this summer:
- Don’t Go Too Soon. If you’re newly divorced and the idea of sharing vacations as a family appeals to you, give yourself and your kids some time to adjust first. Duffy believes ex-vacationing is less confusing to older kids than younger ones, and easier to pull off if the divorce is no longer fresh. Likewise, you might want to hold off until your children are old enough to understand that a week on the ski slopes doesn’t mean Mommy and Daddy love each other again.
- Be Honest with Your Kids. Once you feel your kids are old enough and emotionally ready, take time to set expectations. “I’d even recommend a brief family meeting before vacation to say, ‘We’re going to do this, but we don’t want you to think we’re going to get married again. That didn’t work, but this arrangement does,'” Duffy said. “It has to be abundantly clear that you’re a family and you love each other, but you weren’t good at being married.”
- Be Honest with Yourself and Your Ex. Don’t go off on a family vacation with the secret desire to rekindle a romance with your former spouse. This may work in Disney movies but rarely pans out in real life. If you aren’t emotionally over your ex, embarking on a shared vacation with your children is a bad idea. (See #1)
Ex-cations don’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can create continuity for your kids while still maintaining your space. Consider splitting your time (and expense) at the vacation condo or hotel. That way Mom gets half the week, Dad gets half the week and the kids get the best of all possible situations.
Remember to always consult your divorce agreement for pre-existing vacation arrangements. If you are still in the process of divorcing, talk to your attorney about what you should considerations when including vacation plans and schedules in your custodial arrangements.