Spring Break is upon us, and it's usually a fun and busy time for families. It's meant to be an opportunity for some much needed rest, relaxation and fun for both kids and their parents. But for separated and divorced families, it is often a cause of stress and conflict.
Divorced and separated parents need to agree who is spending time with the kids, if they are sharing the time or alternating each year, if they are going away or staying at home. It's easy to get caught up in old emotions and resentment and it can too often becomes a competition where parents try to out-do each other on Spring Break fun or fight hard because they don't want the other parent to take the kids away.
As a divorced or separated parent making arrangements for your children over Spring Break, it's important keep in mind that this is supposed to be a fun time for your kids and an opportunity to give them some wonderful memories. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you get your ducks in a row for this Spring Break.
Work with your co-parent to establish an arrangement for Spring Break (as well as other school vacation periods) that you works well for both parents and your children. You may choose to alternate who spends Spring Break with the kids so you each have an opportunity to plan a vacation or you may find it works better for your family to share the time. There is not one solution that works for all; you'll need to work together to decide what's best for you and what's in the best interests of your children.
coparently makes it easy for parents to organize and manage their co-parenting during Spring Break and to communicate clearly about any schedule changes or special requests. Parents can set up and manage their parenting time online using our easy-to-use, intuitive calendar. coparently's secure message centre enables clear, child-focused communication – not open to interpretation, opinion or emotion. And if you incur some added expenses over Spring Break, you can easily track all shared expenses and all payments made with the expense-tracking tool.
If your co-parent is planning a vacation with the kids for Spring Break, tell them to have a great time! It's important to encourage your children to have fun with the other parent and let them know that you want them to have a healthy relationship with both parents. Kids will often feel guilty and maybe reluctant to go on the trip if they think it's going to leave a parent feeling bad. Don't make your kids suffer just to punish your ex. Don't use this opportunity to score points – because not only are you hurting your ex, you're also hurting your children. If you have a legitimate concern that impacts your children's safety or you're worried your child won't be returned, then that's a different situation entirely and you need to take the appropriate steps to protect your children.
If you're the parent taking the kids away for a fun trip, try to be respectful and considerate of the other parent's feelings. Make sure they have all the information they need and feel completely comfortable with the plan. If you take their feelings into consideration, it will help to reduce the amount of friction and hopefully enable you both to make a plan that is in the best interests of your children.
No parent should be left wondering where their child is, so if either of you are planning a vacation with the children, the other parent absolutely has the right to be given a specific itinerary and a way to contact their child over the break. Work with your co-parent to set up the logistics to make this happen so that you both feel comfortable.
If you both want to take the children on vacation during the same week, this can be problematic. It's a good opportunity to really consider what is best for your children and what they might prefer to do. Try to look for the compromise and discuss ways you can accommodate each other's wishes.
It's not always possible to take your kids away for Spring Break and if you're both planning on staying home and you have work commitments, then it's a good idea to work out how best to manage your parenting time and set up transitions etc. If your kids are going to be in camp, then you can decide if you need to make any changes to your usual parenting time schedule or if it's just a case of collecting the kids from a different location, otherwise business as usual.
If you are both hoping to balance spending some time with the kids and work, then it's really helpful if you can work together to find a schedule that works for both of you. If you can coordinate meetings and the time each of you needs to be at work, then you can set up a parenting time plan that works for everybody. This way, nobody is left scrambling for childcare and the kids get to spend quality time with both parents. Everybody wins.
If you are planning on spending time with the kids at home during Spring Break, there are lots of fun ideas and activities you can do to make some special family memories. Here are some of our favorite ideas:
Be a tourist in your own city. Research some fun things to do in your own town that you've never done before. Maybe there's a double decker bus tour you haven't been on or a local museum you've been meaning to visit. Check out local restaurant reviews and find one you haven't been to that gets great reviews for family dining. To truly escape in your own city, make it a rule that you can't go anywhere that you've been before. You can go explore places that are right in your own backyard and discover new and interesting things about the place where you live.
One mum came up with a great idea to turn your home into a hotel for a night. You could surprise the kids on a transition day by welcoming them home to your "home-tel". Turn your entranceway into a hotel lobby, greet them at the door and take their bags. You can have some fun drinks and snacks at the ready for a "welcome reception". Leave fresh towels on the beds and give them the "home-tel" menu to choose from. By no means are we insisting on filet mignon here! A choice between grilled cheese, chicken strips or mac-and-cheese are sure to delight! Transition days can often be stressful for kids so this would be a nice way of turning it into a fun experience for once!
Springtime is a great time to create some fun and colorful crafts. Let your kids be inspired by all the beauty that nature has to offer during the spring season. Paintings of blossom trees, flowerpot crafts, building a birdhouse, the ideas are endless. Why not get your kids to create some works of art and organize an art exhibition in your own backyard? Combine with a lemonade stand and your kids can earn a little bit of pocket money while sharing their wonderful creations with the neighbors. Added bonus: invite the other parent to join in the fun to make it even more special and memorable for your kids.
Stay home all day in your PJs, watch movies and eat snacks. We all need a little down time after working hard and the kids need a rest from school, homework and routine. Make a day when everyone gets to sleep in and have a lovely, lazy day at home with the family.
Kids love to help out in the kitchen but when you're rushing home from work with hungry, tired kids in tow, there often just isn't the time to channel your inner-Jamie Oliver. Pick a day where you have some time. Get the kids to plan a menu; you can then all go together to the grocery store to get the ingredients. Or better still, include a trip to a local farmers' market if there's one close by. Try to help the kids pick something that they will be able to prep easily and set them up for success. Make sure everyone has a role in the preparations. You can even transform your house into a posh restaurant for the night! Let the kids set the table and everyone can put their fancy clothes on for dinner. Younger children can play host while older kids can help to prepare and serve the food.
Whatever your plans are for Spring Break, keep in mind that what children want most is to spend time with you – this becomes even more important for kids moving between two homes. Whatever time you are spending with your children this Spring Break, give them your full attention and make the most of it. If they are spending time with the other parent, let them enjoy it and be sure to ask them all about it and show that you are interested in what they're doing when you are not together. Make sure they know you fully support their relationship with the other parent and that their happiness is what really counts.
So whether you're sharing the time or spending the whole week together, make sure your kids know that you both love them and take this break from routine to create some lasting memories.