Parents find spring, summer, and children’s rites of passage even more complicated when dealing with two households
Parents must be vigilant about important life milestones–details that can be even more challenging to track when parents break up, says Nan Cohen, divorce reality expert. She hears from families who are juggling the realities of Mother‟s Day Father‟s Day, graduations, summer camps, and custody schedules—all as spring arrives as spring arrives and swiftly becomes summer.
Are prescriptions refilled before kids leave for camp? Did a teen‟s learner‟s permit expire? Does everyone have the same dates on their calendars? Did anyone remember Grandma‟s birthday? Cohen asks. “Reality creeps up on busy parents—especially when two households are involved,” says Cohen. “For example, what happens when a child turns 18 „ages out‟ of a parent‟s insurance benefits? This becomes even more critical for a child heading off to college.”
“Flexibility works,” says Cohen, “in addressing scheduling issues. Spring and summer are seasons full of anticipation for everyone. Children are on school breaks and holidays. Parents are planning for not only end of school year events, but events that involved many others—grandparents, school friends, and step-parents.
Holidays and occasions tumble off family calendars during late spring and summer months, but Cohen stresses this is a season about much more than a graduation party or summer camp reservation.
“Getting through Graduations to Vacations” is the topic when Cohen is joined on the air by Pam Collis, attorney at Walsh, Collis, Blackmer, PC, for “Dealing with Divorce, next airing on KQV-AM 1410 in Pittsburgh and at KQV.com on Thursday, May 12. Attorney Collis returns to discuss “In Matters of Custody” on Thursday, May 19 at 7:30 pm. Both shows will provide tips and tactics for parents juggling seasonal and custody concerns. “What starts with Mother‟s and Father‟s Day is a stream of special occasions followed by school breaks and vacations,” says Cohen. “When it comes to the kids, parents who are operating out of separate households need to stop and apply compromise when their first instinct might be to start an argument.”
“It‟s not easy keeping all the details of daily life together when the emo
tions and processes of divorce are upon you,” says Cohen. “But this is the time for extra measures that will relieve stress on everyone in the household—a household that now may be operating from two addresses.” Cohen recommends that parents work amicably when it comes to the children.
“So what if the custody agreement designates two weeks a month over the summer?” she says. “If there‟s an extra week at the shore with one parent or a different option for camp that cuts into custodial time, parents need to step back and think about what‟s best for their children and not always put the officially custody parameters first.”
Cohen says open communication lines are essential between both parents as with the kids. Here are NAN COHEN’S TOP TIPS for navigating family obligations around custody and children‟s schedules.
- Father’s Day can’t always for “mom” or “dad”. For some families where step-parents are in the mix, Mother‟s Day might be for “both moms.” Work out something where everyone can enjoy the holiday weekend—even it means Mother‟s Day is celebrated on Saturday instead of Sunday. Or use the whole weekend before the holiday for a more leisurely and fun time with your kids. “Sometimes being reasonable is just easier for everyone,” Cohen says.
- Communication about schedules, flexibility around custodial hours and days is essential, Cohen stresses. “If you can‟t talk about giving your kids some space and time for the special events and opportunities that come with warm weather and summer vacation, then you need to take a look at the root problem,” she says. “If it‟s about not wanting to talk to your ex-spouse, then you need to address that issue immediately rather than have your kids suffer.”
- Gather your tools to manage time and priorities. Make a list of all the aspects of your day-to-day life affected by separation and possible divorce, says Cohen. “The little things can suddenly be the largest challenges, such as transportation for a couple who have one car or how to cover all the kid‟s activities from dance practices through the big recital. “Families can make a choice to get tickets together and all attend in support of a child,” Cohen suggests. Daily routines can be suddenly disrupted, says Cohen, and children are especially affected. “Write down everything you can think of that may be „different‟ if you and your spouse are no longer living under the same roof, Cohen advises. “You‟ll be able to better see where you can simplify and where you really need to ask for help.
- Put the kids in the spotlight. Your simmering emotions– which may include anger, resentment or downright confusion–deserve a break. Cohen stresses that couples step back to objectively consider how the reality of divorce or separation is affecting their children. “I encourage everyone in any phase of divorce to step back and have an amicable conversation about their children.
- Make summer special. School breaks provide room for kids to travel with other family members or friends‟ families and perhaps have some adventures that can be refreshing and a break from instead travelling back and forth to respective parents‟ home. Consider working time into the schedule for children to get quality time at their grandparents or other special trips that might not be possible in years ahead. “Most people grow up to cherish that time with spent with grandma and papa,” says Cohen. “Find a way to make that happen despite what you and your ex are doing.”
Cohen is an advocate for total wellness and confidence building for both women and men who are dealing with divorce and other life stressors.
“New routines for children need to be additionally realistic and organized,” says Cohen, “but anyone dealing with divorce or a major life change needs to take care of themselves, too.”