Summer Holiday Advice for Separated Families
The summer holidays are now well and truly upon us and whilst they are a welcome break for children, they can cause problems for parents – particularly those who are separated and co-parenting.
Tension can arise in deciding where the children will spend time, becoming a painful process for both children and adults.
While ideally all holiday plans would have been agreed months in advance, we know things are often far from ideal! So, here’s some advice for co-parenting families who are finding the summer holidays difficult.
Missing your children
Summer holidays are often the first time that children from newly separated families leave the parent they mainly live with, for longer than a weekend. It can also be the first time that one parent effectively has sole charge of the kids. It is natural to feel anxious about this, but it is also important to understand that it’s all part of a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Try to view childfree time as an opportunity, and something to embrace. Make plans to catch up with family and friends, get around to all those things you never have time for and enjoy some time just for you.
Holiday childcare for separated parents
There are various approaches to splitting childcare in the holidays, depending on your situation and the quality of your co-parenting relationship.
Many parents find it useful to sit down with a calendar and a list of all the school holiday dates. This helps both parents clearly see the situation and work out what’s needed. Where both parents are working, additional childcare arrangements (such as below) may be needed:
• Asking grandparents and extended family to help
• Taking unpaid leave
• Booking holiday clubs (agree cost split in advance to avoid any misunderstandings later)
Share details of holiday plans
Regardless of whether you are going abroad for a holiday, visiting somewhere in the UK or enjoying a ‘staycation’, it is important both parents feel comfortable about the holiday their children will be having.
After all, you both have Parental Responsibility irrespective of who they live with most of the time. It seems reasonable to expect to tell the other parent:
• Accommodation details (address, phone number, website)
• Travel details (airline, flight times, etc)
• Emergency contact details
As well as building the co-parenting bond, telling the other parent where you’re planning to go also allows the children to share their excitement with both parents, rather than feeling they must keep secrets.
If you’re travelling alone with children, or you don’t share the same last name, be aware that some countries require the other parent’s written consent, as well as a passport.
Check with your travel agent or the passport office to see what’s required.
If you don’t usually split childcare 50/50, then younger children may find it hard to spend long periods of time away from the main carer. If this is the case, regular shorter breaks may be more appropriate.
Older kids are more likely going to want to be involved in their holiday arrangements, however it is important to agree things with your ex-partner before confirming arrangements with your kids. Older children and teenagers will also want to spend time with their friends, so factor this in when making plans.
Keep in contact
It is normal for children to want to speak to the other parent when they’re away, especially if it’s something they aren’t used to. A quick call, Skype or Facetime can be reassuring for both the children and the absent parent.
Remember not to take things personally. If you usually see your kids on weekends and they are going away for a week they may not need to call you even if they called the other parent – it doesn’t mean they love you any less.
The summer holidays provide a great opportunity to ditch the routine and relax for a bit. No mad dash out of the house in the morning, or rushing around to get to afterschool clubs. Most kids need the downtime the summer offers, so try not to overschedule your days and enjoy spending some quality chill out time with your children.
What if we can’t agree on childcare arrangements?
Ideally all co-parenting decisions can be agreed however, as we said before, things are often far from ideal. If it’s not possible to come to an agreement, then an application to the Court might be necessary to establish the level of time a child should spend with each parent.
While this won’t necessarily resolve issues for this holiday, it could help determine childcare agreements for half-term and Christmas (you may find our ‘What do the children really want this Christmas?’ article helpful).
Court proceedings should always be a last resort – it can be a stressful and expensive experience. Before making an application for a Child Arrangement Order, it’s advisable to speak to a solicitor, who may be able to assist in helping to reach a holiday contact schedule.