Divorce 101

Summer Survival Guide for Separated Parents: Top Tips to Keep Kids Happy and Conflict-Free!

kids swimming in pool
Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335
Summer break presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for separated parents navigating the complexities of co-parenting. In Ontario, where children are off school for several weeks, effective co-parenting is essential to ensure a smooth, enjoyable summer for both parents and children. This article offers practical tips and strategies for separated parents to successfully co-parent during the summer break.

1. Plan Ahead

Effective co-parenting during summer starts with proactive planning. Early discussions and clear agreements can help avoid conflicts and ensure that both parents and children have a memorable summer.

Steps to Plan Ahead:

  • Schedule a Meeting: Set up a meeting well in advance to discuss summer plans. This could be a face-to-face meeting, a video call, or even through a co-parenting app.
  • Create a Calendar: Develop a detailed summer calendar outlining the parenting schedule, including vacation dates, special events, and camps.
  • Consider Each Parent’s Schedule: Take into account each parent’s work schedule, planned vacations, and other commitments.
  • Discuss Financial Responsibilities: Agree on how costs will be shared for summer activities, vacations, and childcare.

2. Prioritize Communication

Open and respectful communication is key to successful co-parenting. Keeping each other informed about plans and changes helps to maintain a cooperative relationship.

Communication Tips:

  • Use Technology: Utilize co-parenting apps, shared calendars, and messaging tools to keep each other updated.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular check-ins to discuss any updates or changes to the plan.
  • Stay Positive: Focus on positive communication and avoid negative or critical comments about the other parent.
  • Be Flexible: Understand that plans may need to change and be willing to adjust as needed.

3. Focus on the Children’s Needs

Summer is a time for children to relax, have fun, and make memories. Keep their best interests at the forefront of all decisions and plans.

Child-Focused Considerations:

  • Get Input from the Kids: Involve older children in the planning process to understand their preferences and interests.
  • Consistency and Routine: Maintain some level of consistency in daily routines, even during vacations, to provide a sense of stability.
  • Balanced Time: Ensure that children get to spend quality time with both parents and have opportunities for solo activities or time with friends.

4. Plan Fun Activities

Summer break is an ideal time for children to explore new interests and enjoy activities that might not fit into the regular school year schedule.

Activity Ideas:

  • Camps and Workshops: Enroll children in summer camps or workshops that match their interests.
  • Local Adventures: Plan local day trips to parks, museums, beaches, or amusement parks.
  • Family Traditions: Create new summer traditions, such as weekly movie nights, BBQs, or sports activities.
  • Staycation Ideas: Plan fun activities at home, like backyard camping, DIY projects, or cooking together.

5. Handle Vacations Smoothly

Vacations require additional planning and coordination. Clear communication and agreements can help ensure that vacation plans are enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.

Vacation Planning Tips:

  • Advance Notice: Provide plenty of notice to the other parent about vacation plans, including dates, destinations, and travel arrangements.
  • Detailed Itinerary: Share a detailed itinerary, including contact information and emergency plans.
  • Legal Considerations: Ensure that any travel outside of Ontario or Canada complies with legal requirements, including travel consent forms if needed.
  • Respect Agreements: Honour any previously agreed-upon vacation schedules and be respectful of the other parent’s time.

6. Address Conflicts Constructively

Conflicts may arise, but addressing them constructively is crucial for maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Conflict Resolution Tips:

  • Stay Calm: Approach conflicts with a calm and respectful demeanour.
  • Focus on Solutions: Work together to find practical solutions that prioritize the children’s well-being.
  • Seek Mediation: If conflicts persist, consider seeking the help of a mediator or co-parenting counselor.
  • Document Agreements: Document any changes or agreements in writing to avoid misunderstandings.

7. Prepare for Transitions

Transitions between homes can be challenging for children, especially during longer breaks. Smooth transitions help children feel secure and reduce anxiety.

Transition Tips:

  • Consistent Routine: Maintain a consistent routine for transitions, including pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Positive Goodbyes: Encourage positive goodbyes and reassure children that they will have fun with the other parent.
  • Comfort Items: Allow children to bring comfort items, such as favourite toys or books, between homes.
  • Communicate Clearly: Ensure that children understand the schedule and what to expect during transitions.
Co-parenting during the summer break in Ontario requires careful planning, effective communication, and a focus on the children’s needs. By working together, separated parents can create a positive and enjoyable summer experience for their children, fostering happy memories and a strong co-parenting relationship.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.