First we had to grapple with the #divorceselfie, in which former couples take to social media to profess their mutual good-naturedness about the demise of their marriages.
Now comes the divorce vacay, in which former couples travel together for the sake of the kids. Actress Hilary Duff and her ex-husband, former NHL player Mike Comrie, took their 3-year-old son Luca to Hawaii recently, just a week after their divorce was finalized.
"We are good friends and we laugh a lot," Duff told Ellen DeGeneres about her ex. "And we have a great communication and we share pictures when one is not with Luca. He's great, we are great, and we keep on trucking."
I'm all for peaceful divorces and respectful co-parenting. But I have to wonder: Is it confusing for kids to see their divorced parents getting along well enough to vacation together? Are they wondering, in the midst of all that family togetherness, why you two couldn't just stay together? Or whether, just maybe, you'll get back together?
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I've seen a couple of families that have made this work beautifully," said clinical psychologist John Duffy, author of "The Available Parent: Expert Advice for Raising Successful, Resilient, and Connected Teens and Tweens" (Viva Editions). "But most of the time I think it's a bad idea."
The families who successfully vacation together, Duffy said, spell out clear expectations for their kids to avoid confusing them.
"I'd even recommend a brief family meeting before vacation to say, 'We're going to do this, but we don't want you to think we're going to get married again. That didn't work, but this arrangement does,' " Duffy said. "It has to be abundantly clear that you're a family and you love each other, but you weren't good at being married."
Co-vacationing is less confusing to older kids than younger ones, he said, and easier to pull off if the divorce is no longer fresh.
"If enough time has passed and there's some maturity among the kids, it can work," he said. "But if it's new and your kids are 4 and 7, there's enough confusion there already. You don't want to lend more."
What's the upside then? Why not just travel apart?
"I think it models that relationships, even when they don't work a certain way, can still be close," Duffy said. "It models a certain flexibility in relating that I've seen kids adopt. That can open doors for kids to be friends with the opposite sex and, eventually, stay friends with their own exes."
Which is a good thing, as long as those friendships are healthy.
"And that's a big caveat," Duffy said.
Rare is the divorce in which both parties wanted out of the marriage equally, Duffy said. So if the vacation is going to dredge up painful or unresolved feelings for one of the adults, it's also not worth pursuing.
"I worked with a dad who went into the vacation really hoping that's when he'd win his ex back," Duffy said. "If one or both parents has an agenda and the kids are just along for the ride, that's a bad idea."
Grown-up feelings matter too, after all. Especially when they're being triggered in the presence of your kids.
"Just like we suggest that parents give plenty of thought and time to the decision to introduce their kids to someone they're dating, it is equally important, if not more so, to give ample consideration to the tone and dynamic you want to set in the divorce relationship," Duffy said. "This includes, but is certainly not limited to, vacationing together."
(c)2016 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.