Before you know it, school will be out for the summer, and already the lovely weather has brought the feel of a fast approaching holiday within reach. For children, this is often the happiest time of their year, a chance to take an academic break, away from grades and pressure in favour of ice cream, swimming, spending time with their friends, and watching movies. But for parents, especially separated parents, this may be a very stressful time. Not only do you have to find ways of occupying the children’s time and looking after them, you may find it hard to negotiate who spends time with who, and when.
To avoid unnecessary stress, here are our top summer holidays tips for separated parents:
1. Start soon
For children, holiday plans start as soon as school ends, around the end of July. For parents, holiday planning should start in advance. It may be difficult to create a schedule around you and your ex-partner’s availability, that includes adequate time with your children and loved ones, when you have other commitments. Look at the term dates well in advance, communicate with your ex and decide what dates to plan around. It may be difficult for healthy conversations to happen after or during a lengthy separation process, but this must take place to ensure summer goes smoothly. Save yourself the stress by starting well in advance.
2. Keep a clear record
Record everything agreed in writing. You could even create a shared calendar to ensure there is no miscommunication. You can find free templates online, from Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) or create your own. The important thing is to ensure, you or your ex are aware of where the other is staying, the activities planned, and the exact dates and caretakers. If you are working on a shared budget, deciding this in advance can also prove very helpful.
2. Be flexible
Although the children may have been living with one party for longer than the other, holiday time is different and can be treated as such. In many cases, an equal division of holiday is appropriate. Maternal and paternal grandparents, and other relatives may also like to be included in the equation, so try and create something that works for everyone. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but compromise is necessary to ensure no one is left slighted, or ignored. For children, having frequent time with their loved ones is critical for maintaining good relationships, so make sure this time is respected and recognised.
3. Consider any legal orders
You may already have an existing order in place that has allocated summer holiday time. Ensure that you are not in breach of this when deciding on time. Typically these orders provide some degree of flexibility, but this shouldn’t be infringed upon without prior discussion with your partner. If you plan to travel outside of the country, make sure you have permission to leave with the children. If you don’t have the relevant permission within a Court order, you will need to ensure you have written permission from the other parent before you travel. You or your ex may not feel comfortable about particular regions due to personal circumstances, so try and confer to work this out as best as you can. Summer holidays are brief, and should be enjoyable so you don’t want to be wasting time on legal battles.
4. Put family first
Remember to prioritise the children. For them family comes first, and that may sometimes mean putting troubles and arguments aside to create a plan everyone can enjoy. Even with strained relationships it is important to stay positive and communicate with your ex appropriately. Children may pick up on arguments or a tense atmosphere, causing significant distress, so try to keep it light and friendly. When planning activities, ask the children what they want to do first, and incorporate that in your travel plans. Small children may feel anxious if they don’t see you or your ex for a long period of time, so pick travel destinations carefully. Lastly, although summer is meant for relaxing, they may have assignments from school or tasks to complete around revision. Your partner may not know about this, so check carefully that everything has been talked through.
5. Communicate clearly
Although this has been mentioned before in terms of your plan, you or your ex may feel anxious about your children spending time away from you. Feelings of jealousy may arise. It is important to recognise these feelings, but not give them full sway. Respect each other’s boundaries. Calling to check in is fine once or twice a day, but not ten or so times. Texting with the children is good too, but the other person may want them to spend time off screen with their loved ones. Don’t make the children feel guilty about being away from you. Sometimes space is healthy, so recognise this and have a lucid definition in what you want and do not want. Talk through the Dos and Don’ts and heed what you have decided.
6. Look to the future
Don’t hyperfixate on the past, and past arguments. Focus on your long term plans and goals: to have a better and healthier relationship for the children. Selfish decisions set a precedent for the future, and create a recurring tone. Think about what you want your long term relationship to be like, and how you want it to play out. Plan for the future, and consider what holidays may look like in two years, or five, or ten. You and your ex determine your relationship, so don’t let past wrongdoings get in the way of future happiness with the children. Try to stay positive at all times, and record your memories together. You can look back at the photos and videos one day, and make the other person feel included as well.
In 2022, there were 2.5 million separated families in Great Britain, and within these families 4 million children. Remember that you are not alone, and you don’t need to get it perfect first try. These tips are here for a smooth summer. In case you need extra support, remember: Hedges here to help; whether it is with planning around court orders, or assisting you going through family mediation to communicate with the other party.
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We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.