This blog was originally written to create an awareness. Parents often overlook summer plans for children during divorce. Currently due to Covid-19 we have children with both plans that were overlooked as well as many summer programs closing for summer 2020, leaving families without plans. However, some summer programs plan to open with significant restrictions and social distancing. We are posting the blog so families can read about the benefits of such programs for the future, and to attempt to retrofit fit them in other creative ways this summer, if they can’t find an alternative program that is open.
Summer Programs and Your Summer Custody Agreement
Typically school is closed for nearly 25% of the year. Yet, parents may overlook the potential benefits of enrolling their children in organized summer programs. In her practice, Shana Schwartz, MSW LCSW helps parents consider how these summer programs may offer important experiences that encourage meaningful progress for the social, emotional, and intellectual growth of a child. With regard to children of divorced parents in particular, summer programs offer the opportunity for children to release the possible stresses of home life.
The Benefits of Summer Programs
Benefits of day camp, sleep-away camp, and teen programs include:
- Nurturing social skills
- Learning to live in a community
- Modeling healthy living
- Easing the summer slide
- Enhancing self-confidence
- Trying new activities
- Pursuing a passion
- Helping kids unplug and build friendships
- Reintroducing nature
- Fostering teamwork
- Exploring feelings
- Encouraging personal growth
With the hundreds of choices among day camps, sleep away camps, enrichment programs (academics, STEAM, foreign language, hobbies, etc.), single-subject focused programs (sports, music, technology, etc.), travel, community service, study abroad, internships, gap year, and so many more, parents may find the vetting and selection process overwhelming. Happily, parents have a resource to ease the camp search. As a summer program advisor who has spent nearly 20 years assessing programs, Beth Goldstein of The Camp Experts & Teen Summers has successfully guided hundreds of families to the programs that best fit their parenting goals, children’s personalities and interests as well as the parameters.
The Challenges of a Summer Custody Plan
Divorced parents may face additional challenges when they start to plan for summer. Some obstacles may be removed by carefully wording their divorce agreements to specifically address summer plans. By including more general language such as “summer program” instead of “summer camp” and specifying financial responsibility/cost sharing “through age 18” or “through age 21”, parents can avoid future debate over whether a summer endeavor falls within the scope of the agreement. Similarly, the agreement may address the process and responsibility for choosing the particular experience. Parents may have differing views on what types of experiences will be valuable for their children and including a compromise in the divorce agreement will make the decision-making process smoother each summer.
Distribution of Custodial Weeks in the Summer
Likewise, another area of potential disagreement for divorced parents, is the allotment of summer weeks that the child/children will spend with each parent vis-à-vis the number of weeks that the child/children will participate in a program. For example, if a child spends 7 of the approximate 12 weeks of summer vacation at sleep away camp, who will have custody for the remaining 5 weeks? If a teen spends 4 weeks in July traveling or on a college campus as part of a summer program, will those weeks be subtracted from each parent’s custodial time or deducted from the weeks that the child would otherwise have been with a specific parent during a specific time-frame (i.e., if the teen program takes place in the month of July, would the parent who ordinarily has the teen for the first part of the summer have those 4 weeks counted against that parent’s allotted time?).
Choosing the Right Summer Program for Your Children
Moreover, will one parent be designated to take the lead in the summer program search? Will both parents initiate a separate search or work together? In her practice, Beth Goldstein has consulted with one or both parents, jointly and/or individually, to help answer the question “But What About Summer Now and in the Future”?
Co Authored by
Shana Schwartz, MSS LCSW (she/her)
267 818-4476 office
Beth Goldstein, Esquire
Summer Program Consultant
The Camp Experts & Teen Summers
610-658-0744 and 917-880-1323 offices
About Shana Schwartz MSS, LCSW
Shana Schwartz MSS, LCSW provides individual and family counseling, parent consultation, school consultation and parent coordination services. She has specialty areas in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression, behavioral and adjustment disorders.
Ms. Schwartz holds additional post-graduated training in Mindfulness, Parent Coordination, Mediation, Custody and Collaborative Divorce. The focus of her work in each of these practice areas is “Putting Your Children First”.
Click here to learn more about Shana Schwartz MSS, LCSW