As August approaches many Western Pennsylvania parents are gearing up to go on one last family vacation before back-to-school shopping starts. Planning a summer vacation is never easy, but for some parents the challenge is heightened as they face the prospect of their first family getaway post-divorce. Even though roughly half of American families have dealt with the devastating effects of divorce, many concerned parents still experience feelings of guilt and anxiety when it comes to planning the first family getaway after a divorce. If you're feeling anxiety while planning your family's first post-divorce vacation, it helps to know that you're not alone.
Too often newly single parents set themselves up for disappointment by starting the planning process with comparisons to vacations of the past. As a parent, your instinct is to create the best possible experience for your children, but just because you know from past experience that the kids loved the trip to the beach last year doesn't mean that trying to replicate traditions from the past is always a good idea. No matter how well-intentioned, sometimes activities that bring up memories of past family traditions can lead to a sense of regret that things are just not the same. Instead, think proactively! Start creating new experiences, new memories and new places to explore.
While a divorce certainly doesn't mean your family will never be able to enjoy familiar family traditions, opening the door to new activities can provide the opportunity to look ahead to the future. Your new family is undergoing a transition, so growing pains are natural. But letting go of the Norman Rockwell images of family vacation it will make it easier to design a new reality with realistic expectations so you and your children can really enjoy your summer getaways.
Here are some tips to help make your first post-divorce family getaway go smoothly:
1. Plan ahead - coordinating schedules is difficult enough for any family, but is especially important for families sharing custody. Be sure to advise the other parent of your intended vacation period well in advance of your departure to ensure everyone is on board with your plans.
2. Keep an open dialogue - remember that you're not the only one feeling the different this year. By talking about your frustrations, sharing expectations and understanding that your new family is undergoing transformation, much of the pressure can be released.
3. Take a deep breath - no matter how much you plan, it's inevitable that something will go awry. Remember that vacation is a time to get away from the stress of everyday life. So don't sweat the small stuff.