Summer is here. I would like to challenge all co-parents this year to develop a new way of thinking about their children during this special time. We all have our own stories of the magic of summer during our childhoods. Some of you had great family vacations and family connections, and others had difficult families, so you cherished time with playmates or activities that gave you a great escape from the chaos. Regardless, summer (and a break from school and family) should be a time of freedom, physical growth, and emotional maturing for all kids. It’s a necessary part of transitioning every year to a new stage of development. Here’s my challenge for you:

Spend some time in the next week or so contemplating what was important to you during your summertime transitions as a child. Was it vacationing because that’s when your parents seemed most relaxed? Was it the time you spent climbing trees, playing basketball in the neighbor’s driveway, or riding your bike to the local park? As you got older, was it that first summer job, the sleep-away camp where you got in trouble, or the boy or girl you met that made your heart flutter? Was it time? Was it activity? Was it relationship? Was it creativity? What made it magical for you? Once you have spent time thinking about it, consider how your children need to create their own sense of magic. That potential magic should have little to do with which parent they are with, which house they are staying at, or whether they go to Disney World or their local neighborhood pool. What creates the magic of summer is the ability to have freedom to grow into a new year of exploration and wonder.

One major way to stifle that magic is to get overly focused on how much time you get with your child, whether or not the other parent is cooperating with your plans, fighting with the other parent when you don’t get your way, and putting your children in the middle of your disappointments and conflicts. Please take a moment to reflect on your own childhood and how you needed to grow during this special time. Let go of your needs, so your kids can thrive. Without the right amount of magic in childhood, children grow up too fast and lose the ability to imagine all the possibilities in store for them.