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Summer presents custody challenges

Instead of being a time of vacation, summer can present stress and challenges to separated or divorced parents and their children, with negative aftereffects that can last for years. Organization and communication, however, can help prevent child custody problems over the summer.

First, parents and children should communicate about their needs and wishes as soon as possible. Mediators or counselors can help parents overcome more difficult disagreements. Respect is also essential. At the very least, parents should not speak negatively about each other. Any actions and comments have an impact on children and, ultimately, a parent's relationship with them.

It is important to remember that things change from summer to summer and planning should reflect these changes. A child's interests change as they become older. Parents want to pursue different activities. Revisiting and revising plans can help meet everyone's needs.

Parents should also set and clearly communicate reasonable expectations for their children. Specific details can help children prepare for transitions or events. When children know what to expect, anxiety and poor behavior can be prevented. Visual calendars in both parents' home help with this planning. Parents should also agree to behavior standards and boundaries at both of their homes on matters such as curfews and social media use. Rules should be reasonably consistent at both households.

Finally, many things are temporary, except what serves the best interests of the child. Summers do not last forever and will come again next year. School starts again in a couple of months. Old disagreements are not as important and should not guide behavior. In other words, try to figure out what is ultimately important for the children and what will matter 10 years from now.

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