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Child access during summer holidays

Jun 11, 2008
This is the time of year when divorced parents should settle on summertime access for their children. School and work can take a back seat during at least portions of the summer months as vacations and warm weather activities raise interesting possibilities. Usually it makes sense for our children to be with one parent most of the time and see the other parent on weekends or other scheduled access days. However, in the summer there should be more time available for the kids to spend with the parent they see less often through the year. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when figuring out the best summer access arrangements.

Nothing stays the same forever. Therefore, even if you have a court order or separation agreement that spells out in precise detail what summer access should look like, try to keep an open mind and be willing to take a fresh look at whether that schedule continues to serve the best interests of the children. Obviously as children grow older and other circumstances change a wise parent will take these changes into account rather than ritualistically following an outdated formula.

A word about deviating from court orders and agreements may be in order here. First, it is okay to change the terms by mutual consent without going back to court or signing something. However, if you feel more secure with something in writing a note, dated and signed, with the agreed upon changes should be fine. You should specify that the changes are by mutual agreement and that if one of the parents no longer agrees to the change then the original terms of the order or separation agreement come back into play.

When making summer access plans do not forget that the children may hope to take part in activities that you have not thought of. Both parents should encourage the children to spend extra time during the summer with the parent they see less often during the year. However, it is also important, especially for older children, to have their own time to do their own fun things during the summer. Everyone should work together so that the kids can be involved in sports, camp, or whatever else they have in mind and still involve both mom and dad. Involve the children in your planning and look for ways to overlap time together with their other activities.

Summer also presents opportunities for parents and children to participate together in various special events and activities such as summer holidays, family occasions, and special vacations. It is important for parents to work together to make it possible for the children to enjoy these events with the parent most closely associated to the event. If this is difficult to determine, perhaps one parent can take the kids this year and the other can take them next year. On the other hand, such events may make the relatively little time the children spend with the "access" parent even more meaningful. Some consideration should be given to making sure the children get to spend some of these special times with that parent.

If the access parent is going to get extra time with the children over the summer he or she should be prepared to make the most of this time together. This might mean not only making the children your priority but making sure that they see that this is what you are doing. Perhaps turning off your cell phone, spending less time with your other friends or work for computer might be a good way to send this message to your kids and let them know how important they are to you. As for the activities you engage in with your kids, the younger they are the more they will be happy just to be involved in whatever you are doing. As they get older it will be you that needs to find ways to involve yourself in their activities, even if it is just to show an interest when they get home.

The bottom line is that flexibility and cooperation serve the children so much better than confrontation and rigidity. Even parents who have not separated must negotiate with each other and make trade-offs when making plans for how to spend the summer. Each parent needs to place the children's best interests above all else and this almost always means making sure they maintain a close relationship with the other parent.
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Visit the author's site at Divorce Canada for more useful advice about divorce The site also contains over a hundred pages crammed full of helpful tips.
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