For single dads that aren't used to having their children on a daily basis, summertime will present unique challenges. These challenges can be difficult to deal with if they are not properly planned for, creating stress and strife in what should otherwise be a summer of parent/child bonding. The best way to properly plan for a child's summertime visit is for a parent to take a closer look at their child's schedule and then compare it to their own. There will be some conflicts that need to be addressed since work doesn't let out for the summer. These are the factors you need to consider before summer kicks off.
1. Stick to the Custody Agreement - First and foremost, single dads always need to be careful that they aren't giving their exes any reason to bring issues to lawyers that could affect future visitation rights. Refer to the custody arrangement since it is a legally binding document that outlines the exact terms of visitation and any restrictions that might apply. For example, some parenting plans require vacations to be within a certain mile radius.
2. Arrange for Proper Supervision - Since most jobs do not let out for the summer, single dads will have to make arrangements for childcare or babysitting during times when they are unable to take off of work. Adult supervision is a must and if the specifics aren't laid out in the parenting plan, communicating with the child's mother becomes crucial. Do not assume that the child is old enough to be left alone, especially when they are outside their normal home environment as they tend to view it as a free-for-all.
3. Structure and Schedule - Children are used to having a schedule or structure, be it at home or in school. Summer should be a time to relax, but not to condition a child to the point where returning to a set schedule will present problems. Penciling in time for learning, naps, setting limits on how much television they can watch or any other scheduling ideas for kids will ensure the child doesn't have a hard time going back to school.
4. Address the Living Situation - As most single dads soon find out, living the bachelor life again can be pretty exhilarating. Adjusting the living situation to make it kid-safe and kid-friendly is a must. Put channel blocks on the television as well as browsing restrictions on the Internet. Depending on the child's age, they might want to sleep in the parent's bedroom or have a room of their own. Also, be cautious of the people you allow into your home and expose your children to.
5. Set Guidelines for Friends and Sleepovers - Depending on how close the child's friends from school live, they might want to have them come over. While you may feel touched that your child feels comfortable enough to bring friends to your home, be wary that it doesn't turn into a free-for-all where lax rules are taken advantage of especially with teenagers. It is also a new experience caring for other people's children so be sure to talk with the friend's parents and find out any allergy information, health issues the child might have, emergency contacts, etc.
6. Don't Be To Care Free - While it is tempting to go into "super-cool dad" mode for the summer, remember that the child still needs both parents to be parents. Set up chores around the house that they can do alone and with you. This will give them something to do if you are busy but will also allow for quality bonding time. For example, yard work and laundry can be a two-person job, or as the father washes the dishes, the child dries, providing excellent post-supper conversation time.
7. Take Advantage of This Quality Time - An important goal for single dads during summer vacation should always be quality bonding time with their children. Having father and son or daughter outings is a great way to pass down wisdom, find out how the child is handling the divorce, create memories that will last a lifetime and form a better connection during limited time together. Getting out of the house and into nature is a great way to eliminate distractions for optimal bonding.
8. Plan a Vacation - Summer vacation isn't really a vacation without a trip somewhere. Aim for a destination that everyone can enjoy together. Many resorts offer children's programs that will be a social boon for the child, while providing single dads with some much needed alone time, even if just for a few hours. Unfortunately, vacations aren't free so be sure to plan for vacation budgeting concerns.
9. Be Understanding - If a child says they want to go home, it typically means one of two things: they are bored or they are having difficulty dealing with the separation. After all, it is perfectly normal for the child to miss both parents. Learn about their favorite movies, foods and activities to help them feel more comfortable, but most importantly, talk with them and be a father. Address their concerns and help them understand the visit.
If you have any questions, contact us today and we'll guide you in the right direction.