How to co-parent over summer: expert advice from top divorce coaches

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Summer brings a new set of challenges and opportunities for co-parents. With school out, there’s more time to fill, routines to maintain, and potentially more interactions with your ex. In this article, a few of Pivot’s expert divorce and separation coaches, Paula Crowhurst, Sarah Woodward, Chloe O, Audrey ZeitounJulia Moreno and Sally Jackson provide advice and practical strategies to help you navigate co-parenting successfully over the summer holidays, creating a positive experience for both you and your children.

1. Plan ahead and communicate

Importance of a summer schedule

Creating a detailed summer schedule can prevent many misunderstandings and conflicts. Discuss holiday plans, special events, and daily routines well in advance. This allows both parents to prepare and sets clear expectations for everyone involved. 

Coaching tips: 

  • We tend to forget about bank holidays or special dates for each of your families, agree on all the important dates before school starts in September will really help and prevent conflict — Audrey Zeitoun
  • Be clear about your ground rules and what information you must share, such as flight details, accommodation arrangements, emergency contacts… as well as the notice period for holidays abroad. These aspects often serve as potential sources of conflict jeopardising your desired holiday, so it’s crucial to set and mutually agree upon them from the outset of your co-parenting discussions — Julia Moreno
  • Don’t forget to request any relevant documents from your ex in a timely manner to avoid last minute stress: passports, permission to take the children abroad.

2. Keep routines consistent

Stability is key

While summer often means a break from the usual school-year routine, maintaining some level of consistency is crucial for your children’s well-being. Agree on consistent bedtimes, meal times, and screen time limits across both households.

Coaching tips: 

  • Consistency helps children feel secure. Even small routines can provide a sense of normalcy during times of change.
  • Plan ahead how and when contact will be maintained with the other parent while the children are away— Chloe O

3. Coordinate vacations sensibly

Balance and fairness

When planning vacations, aim for a balance that allows both parents quality time with the children. Discuss potential overlap of dates and be flexible if changes are needed. This ensures that both parents can enjoy memorable moments without feeling shortchanged. Mediator John Ellis suggests, “Have a conversation early in the year about vacation plans. Try to accommodate each other’s requests and remember that compromise is key.”

Coaching tips:

  • Cross-reference your holiday plans early to optimise travel and avoid complicated handover. — Chloe O
  • If you are in different time zones, think about the jet lag for your children and be flexible on the number of days you or your ex-partner have them so they have extra time to rest before going back to school. Divide the holidays according to what works for the kids and not the calendar. — Audrey Zeitoun
  • If you can't get time off work during the summer break and you're looking at summer camps or activities for your children, it's advisable to agree early on what they'll be doing and how the costs will be covered. — Julia Moreno
  • Try to involve your children and consider what they would like to do when making plans. Letting them feel their voice is being heard is so important in all aspects of separation. — Sally Jackson

4. Focus on positive communication

Effective co-parenting communication

Maintaining a positive and respectful communication style with your co-parent sets a great example for your children and reduces stress. Use “I” statements to express your needs and avoid blame or criticism. When conflicts arise, take a moment to cool down before responding. Consider using written communication for sensitive topics to avoid emotional escalation.

Coaching tips:

  • Draft an answer then let it sit for a while without sending it. Revisit it when you are calm and remove anything that is not civil, useful or true — Chloe O
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to read through the draft if you’re unsure whether the tone is appropriate — Paula Crowhurst
  • How you and your ex behave as parents can really affect how your children feel and cope with your separation. Research shows that keeping arguments to a minimum is crucial because fights can hurt children. When you're making decisions, always think: 'Is this what's best for our children? Is it giving them a safe and loving environment?' Your own feelings towards your ex should come second when you're co-parenting. It's tough, but you have to learn to handle your emotions and focus on what's right for your children — Julia Moreno
  • Good communication is vital for successful co-parenting. Decide how and when you'll talk about your children and what to do if you disagree. When disagreements happen, it's best to keep them away from the children. Find a private time and place to discuss things calmly and agree on a neutral location. Meeting face-to-face isn't always necessary; you can choose to chat over the phone or exchange messages. Just keep in mind that these methods have their drawbacks and can sometimes cause misunderstandings — Julia Moreno
  • Aim to use “BIFF”. Keep information brief, informative (remove the emotion and judgement) friendly and firm. Be concise, state your boundaries. — Sally Jackson

5. Encourage and support children’s relationships

Nurturing bonds

Encourage your children to maintain healthy relationships with both parents. Avoid negative talk about your co-parent in front of the children and support their time with the other parent. Children thrive when they feel loved and supported by both parents. Showing respect for your co-parent can significantly impact your child’s emotional health.

Coaching tips:

  • Children learn how to interact and communicate by observing their parents. Demonstrate respectful and positive body language to teach them the importance of respectful communication, even in challenging situations, and help them develop healthy interpersonal skills  — Paula Crowhurst
  • Try to avoid transactional handovers at petrol stations or in airports. If you can, arrange to spend a bit of time together with the children during handovers so the children don’t feel tossed around — Chloe O 
  • Be excited for the children when they are going on holiday or spending time with your ex so they don’t feel guilty or worry that you will be on your own. Likewise, when they return, always show an interest in what they’ve been doing with the other parent so that they feel they can be open with you — Sarah Woodward 
  • When the children come back, ask them about their holidays and ask to see photos for example.. They need to feel they can share their joy and the fun time they had with the other parent with you — Audrey Zeitoun
  • As you both feel comfortable and the children grow up, you might want to plan “family meetings” to talk about school, activities, holidays and how things are going. The goal is to build a strong co-parenting bond, improve communication, and keep the wellness of the family — Julia Moreno

6. Create new traditions

Building new memories

Use the summer to create new traditions with your children. Whether it’s a weekly movie night, a special trip to the beach, or a new hobby, these moments can strengthen your bond and create lasting memories.

Coaching tips:

  • Involve your children in planning these activities. This not only gives them something to look forward to but also ensures the activities are enjoyable for them.
  • Create a memory box.  Include photos, souvenirs,  letters, etc… These objects and messages can help remind your children of happy times you spent together and offer them comfort. — Paula Crowhurst
  • Remember that what your children will remember most are the special moments with you, no matter where you go on holidays. It is about spending quality time together and building happy memories — Chloe O

7. Seek professional support when needed

Professional guidance

If co-parenting challenges become overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Divorce coaches, family therapists, and mediators can provide valuable tools and perspectives to navigate difficulties.

Resource highlight: At Pivot, we connect you with experienced professionals who can offer personalised advice and support tailored to your unique situation.

Coaching tips:

  • If it is your first holiday as a single parent, it can be very emotional not only for you but for your ex and the children. It’s still a grieving period. It’s important to be kind on yourself and take time to adjust to this new life and new organisation — Audrey Zeitoun
  • Venturing on your first holiday alone with the children can be nerve-wracking, but there's a reassuring option: look into single parent group holidays. These trips provide both support and camaraderie, offering tailored experiences to ease any apprehensions and ensure a memorable adventure for you and your children. Researching these opportunities can offer fantastic support and connections with like-minded parents, making your holiday enjoyable and stress-free — Julia Moreno
  • Co-parenting can be challenging, but it's absolutely achievable. Just take a look around, and you'll see plenty of examples. Many parents and children manage to adjust to the new situation and make co-parenting work after a separation or divorce. Let their success stories inspire you. — Julia Moreno

Co-parenting during the summer doesn’t have to be stressful. By planning ahead, maintaining consistency, communicating effectively, and prioritising your children’s well-being, you can create a positive and enjoyable summer experience for your family. Remember, the goal is to work together to provide the best possible environment for your children, fostering their happiness and stability.

For more personalised advice and support, visit Pivot and explore our resources designed to assist you through every step of your co-parenting journey.