Summer holidays can be tricky for divorced parents, here are my tips for how to make it a great summer for all of you.
Do not let what has gone on between you and your ex before now impact your children's summer holidays. Think about the memories and experiences you would love them to have. They have worked hard at school and had gone through a lot of change to deal with they deserve some respite so make sure you keep them at the heart of your decisions.
Don’t leave it to the last minute, you will end up putting yourselves under undue stress, which won’t help with the negotiations. There are also six weeks to cover and chances are you will be dealing with more than just your diaries that need to be co-ordinated but extended or blended family members too and places on holiday clubs fill up fast.
Make a list of all the school holiday dates and how much childcare is needed so that your ex and where appropriate your extended family can understand the situation, especially if you are also juggling work and annual leave. Include childcare costs so that you both have all facts and can come to an agreement. Seeing the situation from each other's perspective will help relieve any hostilities that might be brewing.
Spread days together out over the school holidays as much as possible so both of you have a chance to spend quality time with your children this also avoids your children missing either parent for long periods of time.
Also, plan your time away from the children so you are not left feeling lonely or struggling.
If you’re planning on taking your children abroad or to another city, then you will need to have the other parent’s consent – and it’s always advisable to have it in writing. If you’re planning multiple trips, you will need to get consent for each trip. This could be as simple as a letter or email, noting who the consent is being given to, the dates of the trip and what city or cities and the child(ren) being taken during that period.
To make the process smoother, have a copy of the written consent available to produce at the border if questioned, along with a copy of the child’s birth or adoption certificate (to prove your relationship with the child) or a copy of your divorce certificate (which could be helpful if your child has a different surname to you).
Consent is important not just out of respect for both parents, but because you could be charged with the criminal offence of child abduction if you attempt to take your child without permission. So, be sure and ask, get consent and have it in writing to prove it.
Involve older children in the decision-making whenever possible. You may need to try and work out ground rules with your ex over the bigger issues such as leaving older children unattended.
Be prepared to review and change arrangements and to discuss these with your children as they grow older. Younger children may need frequent short visits, whereas teenagers may prefer to spend weekends with friends but have regular contact and holidays with the non-resident parent.
Look out for any changes in your child. If you notice they are moodier or withdrawn than usual, it may be due to the changes going on around them. Find a quiet time and ask them how they are. Tell them you know things are different and strange. Allowing them to be part of decision-making may help with these feelings.
If plans need to change remember to consult your ex, especially before booking anything. If both parties make an effort to be considerate and consult each other it will make a big difference to the children. Don’t use contact or time together as a bargaining chip. You may no longer be partners but you will always be parents, and your children need you to co-parent effectively. Try to be as fair as you can with your ex-partner and be mindful that your children’s school holidays may clash with that of step or half-siblings.
Sharing itineraries, contact details and things such as how well your children can swim or what factor of suncream they will need will help to put the other parent at ease, and ensure that your children have a good time. Try to keep in touch whilst on holiday even if it’s a quick phone call or text.
You may feel resentful and hurt about your child spending time with the other parent, particularly at first but share those feelings with another adult, not your child. Children pick up on your feelings and can end up torn between parents, feeling guilty and confused and may react by avoiding one parent or lashing out at the other.
When your children do go off with your ex, you may feel a mixture of emotions from loneliness to relief. It's ok to feel those things give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Make a plan for your time away from the children. Use the opportunity to catch up with friends or do something for yourself. Get support if you need it.
Where possible, it is good for children to have continuing contact with extended family members, for the stability they offer and the link they bring to where they are from. Keeping in touch can also offer practical help as they can help with child care. Try to factor in these relationships when planning the summer holidays.
I find with many of my clients it helps to put these principles and approaches in your parenting plan so you always have a framework to work from that works for both of you and most importantly your children. Remember your parenting plan is never static it has to change as your child/children grow. But this is a great place to start and creates the stability you all need to thrive as a family.
For more help on how to ensure your children and you enjoy the summer holidays get in touch.
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