School holidays are tricky enough when you are a parent. It often brings with it stresses over:
- Complex care arrangements; and
- Keeping the kids occupied
For separated or divorced families, these issues can often be magnified. Often the school holidays can bring a stark reminder of the current situation that family life has changed. Naturally this can be painful.
I often deal with families who are looking for help in these situations. There are legal solutions to arrangements for the school holidays but here are some practical tips to help you if are finding the summer holidays a bit tricky to manage.
- The key is to get organised. Make a list of the holiday dates that you need to cover. Rally your ex and your extended family as much as you can. Factor in annual leave and holiday clubs. In particular make sure you factor in the costs of these clubs in to any negotiations that you have with your ex as these can be very expensive.
- Another issue with the school holidays as a divorced or separated family is that children can often feel that things are out of control particularly if they are older and have a greater understanding. Try adding holiday dates and care arrangements to a calendar. Show the calendar to the children so that they know where they are and feel involved.
- Make sure that you spread out time so that each parent gets to spend quality time together with the children.
- Involve the children in key decisions. This is easier the older the children are but an important factor in helping children coming to terms with the new arrangements. Work out the ground rules as a couple with your children for example whether older children can be left at home alone, whether they can catch public transport, bed times and homework times so that you are coordinated on key issues.
- Flexibility is key particularly if you are newly separated or divorced. What may work now may not work next time around or indeed as children get older. For example, younger children may be better with short frequent visits whereas older children may be better staying for a whole weekend.
- Make sure you and your ex do consult on holiday arrangements. When you are feeling angry or upset (to name but a few common emotions of divorced couples) it is easy to try to use contact as a bargaining tool. Try to be fair to each other. You need to remember that whilst you are no longer a couple you will always be parents and will always have to consult on parental issues. This is always easier if you can try to get along. Remember, any consultations should not be done in front of the children – set aside separate time to discuss arrangements so that each parent makes the most of their time with the children.
Trips abroad frequently cause disagreements between divorced parents and I often find myself liaising with parents over this issue. Naturally one parent is concerned when the other wishes to take a child out of the country without them. It raises all sorts of issues not least separation anxiety. The key to dealing with this is communication. Make sure that you tell your ex the itinerary, timings of flights and so forth. Make sure you check things like a bedtime routine, sun cream usage, medication requirements and food likes/dislikes to ease your ex’s anxiety.
If you do encounter difficulties from your ex about taking your child abroad you may need to seek Court permission. Make sure you factor this in before you book any holidays abroad.
Finally, extended family can often be forgotten when parents are separated or divorced. But don’t forget that grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles form an important part of a child’s life. Further they can provide vital alternative care during the school holidays to ease the stress and worry of covering child care.
I hope that you find the above tips helpful. If however, you are having difficulties communicating and agreeing terms with your ex about holiday care, please do contact us on 01905 349217 (Worcester office) / 01902 302969 (Wolverhampton office) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org