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Shared Family Parenting: Vacations

Children benefit from extended uninterrupted vacation time with each parent consistent with their abilities to handle separation from either parent. The length of time for each vacation period is dependent upon the age and temperament of the children, the geographic location of the vacation, the extent of shared parenting, and the availability of the parents.

             Once overnights away from the home base have been successfully established, longer vacation time may be implemented. Vacation time for children less than eighteen months should be consistent with the child’s ability to tolerate extended separations from either parent. Initially, infant vacation time should not exceed three consecutive overnights with either parent. As a child matures, both parents should have the same opportunities to vacation with their child. Many parents provide for two uninterrupted vacation weeks for children at about six years of age, increasing to four weeks by age ten. Whether or not these weeks are consecutive depends upon the circumstances of the family.

  •  To avoid undue stress on the child, parents should plan down time for their child after travel and before they return to school.
  • In planning vacations, parents should not take their children out of school except in special circumstances and when both parents agree.
  • Plans for vacations, holidays or other special occasions should be agreed to as early as possible to avoid last-minute conflict. Parents should establish specific dates for advance notification of summer vacation choices.
  • Consideration should be given to the relationship between vacation, holiday and regularly scheduled time. Is a two week vacation intended to be fourteen days? If a two week vacation involves two weekends, should an alternating weekend plan begin with the non-vacationing parent on the following weekend to avoid three or more back to back weekends with either parent?
  • Parents should not plan a vacation to conflict with the other parent’s scheduled holiday (i.e. July 4 or Labor Day) unless they agree.
  • The vacationing parent should provide the other parent with full contact information prior to leaving home.
  • Arrangements should be made for reasonable telephone contact between the child and the non-vacationing parent, particularly with younger children.
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Shared Family Plan: Sixteen to Eighteen Years, Part II

Children of this age do well with many different plan models. For these late adolescents, communication between parents remains essential, especially regarding curfews, driving, dating and overnights away from both homes.

 

This is a time when children are particularly vulnerable to changes within the family and to pressure from outside the family. Maintaining stability and consistency can be challenging as an adolescent’s feelings are often changeable and intense. Increased schoolwork, extracurricular activities, jobs, peer relationships, and sports are often more important than time with family or either parent. As they move through this stage, many teenagers become focused on future goals such as education, work or other post-high-school plans.

 

While the sixteen to eighteen year old appears to be struggling to become independent, there is still a need for consistency, support and meaningful time with both parents. Parents should be aware of a teenager’s need to be consulted, informed and involved when making plans without giving up the adult/child relationship and the structure that can only be provided by both parents. Parents should remain flexible while maintaining age-appropriate controls.

 
 

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Shared Family Plan: Sixteen to Eighteen Years, Part I

Parents of sixteen to eighteen year olds should encourage and support their child’s:

  • Gradual and healthy separation from both parents.
  • Development of an individual identity.
  • Establishing a sense of self with regard to rules and regulations of society, school and peer groups.
  • Understanding of sexual and other feelings in context of relationships.
 
 

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Shared Family Plan: Thirteen to Fifteen Years, Part II

Parents of these early adolescents should consider the child’s schedule and commitments, distance between the parents’ homes, each parent’s work schedule or other obligations, the child’s temperament and wishes, and recognition of a teen’s need for unstructured time.

             Although many different plans may work for children of this age, some options include:

  • Alternating seven-day periods with or without mid-week time.
  • Alternating long weekends with or without mid-week time.
  • Providing a home base for the child with some time with the non-residential parent during the week and on weekends.

             This is a time when children may articulate a desire for a home base because of the growing importance of their own network and outside activities. Both parents can increase contact through regular attendance at the child’s athletic, performance, academic or other activities. This allows for maximum parental involvement in activities important in the child’s life.

 
 

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Shared Family Plan: Thirteen to Fifteen Years, Part I

            Children between thirteen and fifteen continue to use the family as a base of support and guidance. Decision-making abilities vary widely among adolescents as well as from one situation to another.

             Though they may not show it, young adolescents continue to need the nurturing and oversight of their parents. The primary developmental task for children this age is one of increasing independence from the family and the emergence of an identity of a separate self. Girls usually mature earlier than boys.

             Children of this age should be encouraged to explore activities and develop social relationships outside the family. These outside interests often compete with the scheduled parenting plan. Teens will often prefer to spend time with peers over parents and can become resentful and angry if their wishes are not respected. The challenge for parents of these early adolescents is to support their growing independence while maintaining some basic structure and close contact with both parents.

             It is appropriate for children of this age to begin to negotiate their time directly with each parent. It is of paramount importance for parents to talk directly with each other to be certain that the child is safe and accountable. Parents should support the  relationship of the child with the other parent.

 
 

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