Article written by Gary Direnfeld
Not all relationships end badly. Not all separating parents need support to manage their co-parenting relationship on a go-forward basis. Indeed, some co-parents get along so well, they may even continue to spend time together, even vacation time. But what’s that like for the kids?
The truth is that most kids want their parents to get along. Their life tends to be less chaotic and more peaceful when their parents can play nicely in the co-parenting sandbox. But if this goes as far as vacationing together, there are some thing to be mindful of.
Setting Boundaries on Vacation:
Some kids may not have adjusted yet to the separation. This means traveling and vacationing as a family can create both confusion and further resistance to their separation. The child may wonder why their parents are able to get along for a vacation but not all the time. This conundrum can show itself as irritability, distraction and behavior issues in the child. The lack of clear parental boundaries is beyond their capacity to resolve. This doesn’t mean you can’t take a family vacation, but rather there are things to consider first.
Arranging separate accommodations is important to help your kids understand boundaries and avoid further confusion. When vacationing together, book separate rooms for each co-parent. Together you can agree which room the kids will stay in or else decide on an alternating schedule. The important thing is to be mindful of what your children are seeing. By sharing accommodations you may be sending mixed messages and giving false hope that you will rekindle your relationship.
New Love Interests:
When going on vacation with your co-parent, another issue that can arise is if one or both parents already have a new love interest. If these new romantic partners are left at home, tensions may arise between co-parents. This situation requires very understanding adults and a high level of emotional maturity. It is important to ensure the travel arrangements are very clear to avoid confusion between co-parents. This scenario is less impactful of the kids but will ensure a complication-free family vacay.
The best scenario for family vacations is when both parents have new partners and there is enough emotional maturity for everyone to get along. Therein group vacationing may be a great experience for both you and the kids. It allows your children to witness you separate, settle matters and be accepting of each other’s new lives. Likely in this scenario the parents have been separated longer giving the children time to adjust. Assuming both parents get along with the other’s new partner and they too have emotional maturity, this is a situation that can lead to much enjoyment.
Honesty is the Best Policy:
Lastly, there are those parents who want to give their kids the impression that despite their separation, nothing has changed. This is not advised. Things have changed and to pretend otherwise doesn’t serve the children’s long-term interest. It does not allow them to reasonably adjust to their new reality. Instead, be honest and upfront with your co-parent and your children about the vacation expectations. You can still have a great time as a family. Afterall, honesty is the best policy.
So, if you are contemplating a family vacation, post separation, consider what it may mean through the eyes of your kids. Consider if they have adjusted yet to your separation. Be sure to practice good boundaries with separate accommodations and be open and honest with your kids about expectations. Just because things look different doesn’t mean you can’t have a great family vacation!