By Atty. Andy P. Miller
Keeping children occupied during summer vacation is a challenge for all parents. And it can feel greater when you are a separated or divorced parent. Ideally, you and your child's other parent will cooperate in developing a plan that keeps your child safe, while also providing an enjoyable summer vacation filled with memory-making opportunities for all of you.
The key to a successful summer experience is planning ahead.
1. The most important things to consider in making summer plans is to ensure your child is supervised, safe, and having fun! This likely entails lining up childcare and/or camps, if you haven't already. Many communities offer a variety of low-cost options, including programs at local schools, libraries, and places of worship. Each of these options can provide childcare during some or all of your working hours. Also consider swapping childcare duties with other single parents, taking turns caring for each other's children. Make sure young children, especially those under age 12, are supervised at all times.
2. Try to schedule a memory-making experience at least once a week. You don't need to spend a lot of money on a lavish vacation. Think back to your favorite childhood memories, which most likely are simply times spent with family and friends. These can include a cookout, a trip to the beach or lake, a nature walk or hike, or any other activity that you and your children enjoy. Spend a night stargazing. Download an app that helps you identify the stars and planets in the night sky. Seek out fireworks shows, which are offered in many communities throughout the summer. Many communities also offer free concerts and movie nights, where you can pack a picnic dinner and join other families for a night of free entertainment.
3. Consider joining a local pool club, where you and your children can spend time hanging out with other friends and families. It's often easy to find teenage babysitters willing to spend the day with your children in a safe, fun environment, providing them -- and you -- with a variety of activities and opportunities to meet new friends instead of sitting around the house all day. An added benefit to joining local pool clubs is that many offer swimming lessons and sports opportunities, such as swim and tennis.
4. Take advantage of the many free and low-cost activities available in your community. Contact your city or town parks and recreation department to see what they offer. Check your local library for free or low-cost admission to a variety of attractions, including museums, zoos, and events. baystateparent offers an extensive listing of free family events in its calendar each month. Highland Street Foundation's Free Fun Fridays schedule is here.
5. Go nostalgic. Introduce your children to the summer activities you enjoyed: croquet or badminton in the backyard, hide-and-seek, water balloon and squirt gun fights, hopscotch, dodge ball or any other activities you think they may enjoy.
6. Grow a garden -- flowers or vegetables. Teach your child how to sow seeds, weed, water, and nurture plants to develop a life-long love of nature. If you don't have a yard, let them plant their gardens in planters, or better yet, seek out a community garden, where you'll join other like-minded nature lovers. (Ideas on gardening with kids can be found here.)
There are many low-cost summer adventures out there, especially here in New England where there is so much nature to explore! Climb Blue Hill or follow the entire trail into Boston, or pack a picnic dinner and head to the beach to body surf or watch the sunset. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston to introduce your children to the American Revolution. Take a bike ride or walk along one of the numerous bike paths that crisscross the state.
The most important thing is to make summer fun for your child. Don't let separation or divorce stop you from creating special memories. The key is to plan ahead to make summer a special time for you and your children, making memories that will last a lifetime!
Attorney Andy P. Miller is the founder and managing attorney of Miller Law Group, P.C. (apmillerlawgroup.com). A father himself, Miller focuses on children and their best interests by helping guide parents through the divorce process. Having practiced in nearly every county in Massachusetts, he has a wide understanding of the various courts in Massachusetts and experience before many judges.