What to Do with The Children During the Summer Break when Divorced
One of the more common concerns divorcing parents share with me during June/July is what to do with the children during the summer break from school. Perhaps when two people were married they could trade off some of the parenting duties without it influencing either’s work. Now that they are separated, the expectations regarding the summer parenting schedule have changed. Maybe one, or both parents are looking at the other and want more involvement during the summer, but employers are not cooperative.
The earlier in the year that you and your co-parent can sit down and map out the summer break, the less stressful it will be. I often recommend that parents begin discussing summer holidays by the Family Day weekend in February. Initially, parents can look at their own schedules and plans as compared to the parenting schedule and determine what gaps need to be filled in with supervision. Here are a few considerations as to how to fill in gaps:
If each parent were to take 2 weeks of holidays with the children during the break will only leave 4 weeks unaccounted for. Sometimes parents use this opportunity to take the children camping, visit grandparents, or even travel to some adventurous destination. If travel with the children is too expensive, many communities offer free, or cheap activities that are great for families. For example, in Edmonton, there is the CariWest festival, Street Performer’s festival, The Works, The Fringe, Taste of Edmonton, and of course the K-Day’s parade. I often take my kids on day trips and go “Bigfoot hunting” near Rocky Mountain House, or gold panning out near Devon (a small community just outside of Edmonton). We’ve never found Bigfoot (or gold), but the cost to take the kids gold panning is a Slurpee. Kids want to spend time with their parents. You don’t need to travel to some exotic location, or even spend a lot of money on an activity when you are exploring your community.
Summer Camp gets the kids to socialize and spend time with friends in a fun, safe environment. There are a lot of Summer Camp programs across Alberta and they offer a wide variety of programs including sports, outdoor activities, paintball, horseback riding, etc… Some have a religious component, others don’t. Pick up the phone and interview the director, they would love to answer any questions you have. Many open their summer registration in mid-February and fill up early, or have early bird discounts; as such the earlier you register, the more memorable your summer months will be.
Different community organizations or even the City will offer programming through day camps. Last summer, I registered my kids in a Lego camp that I found on-line – their goal was to teach basic engineering/construction skills to elementary age children. They met in a local church and the kids spent the day building projects with Lego. The YMCA offers Day Camps out of their facilities. Many communities are now offering Green Shack programs in local parks, and each year in February the City of Edmonton publishes a brochure including all the Day Camps offered by the City. These programs often fill up quickly and so the earlier you register the kids, the more likely you will get into the programs you want.
Depending on your separation agreement, and circumstances, summer activities can be considered an extraordinary, Section 7 expense that is shared by both parents. By working together, co-parents can create an inexpensive, and stress-free summer that your kids will remember for a long time.
Corey Anderson, Associate