Most children enjoy the fun and freedom that come with summer activities, but when a family is going through separation or divorce, the tension and new experiences that the family may face can put a damper on what is (for most kids) their favorite time of the year.

Here are five tips to help you make it through the summer even if your family dynamic has changed:

1. If you haven’t done so already, devise a plan for parenting. Be sure to include both a “regular” schedule and a “vacation” schedule for those days or weeks when the child or children are going to be away from home with either parent.

2. Do your best to remain flexible. With three-day weekends (Fourth of July and Labor Day), Father’s Day, graduations, and countless barbecues and summer outings, parenting times may need to be adjusted — by either side. Give yourself and your co-parent permission to deviate from an existing court order. Just be sure to put it in writing and have it signed by both of you.

 

3. Determine how you will handle extra summer expenses. Certain costs, such as childcare or camp tuition, may not have been a big deal while you were married, but separated and divorced parents need to have a specific plan for how these expenses will be paid. This way, there won’t be any surprises!

Note: Children don’t need to know who paid for what, who demanded what, or who refused or agreed to do it. What they should know is that both parents want them to have a great summer and that both parents look forward to sharing time with them.

4. If your parenting arrangement calls for your child to have extended time with his or her other parent, you may experience feelings of anger, hostility or sadness, or even a prolonged reexamination of the cause for your separation or divorce. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with family members or friends, or seek counsel from a health care professional.

5. Most important, do the best you can to work things out with the other parent. Children are smart and can sense when their parents aren’t on the same page and will try to use this to their advantage by playing one parent against the other, such as seeking support from whichever parent is most likely to give in to the child’s request.

Summertime and vacations are supposed to be “premium” time, both for parents and their children. Ample planning and communication can ensure the time off goes smoothly for the entire family. The goal is to save both parents from scrambling at the last minute or having to race to court to enforce their parenting plan.