Divorced or separated parents often share responsibility for their children’s school holidays and with the summer school holidays just around the corner, separated parents will be trying to organise childcare arrangements around work, whilst also ensuring they each get to spend quality time with their children across the summer.
Mediation can help separated parents to agree a parenting plan to cover this period and beyond. Family mediators can help bring parents together, building on the common ground and shaping a plan that points the way ahead for the good of all family members, especially the children.
Below are some of the things you can start to do and put in place to ease the pressure of the summer holidays :
Start Planning Early
It’s important to start thinking about the summer holidays as early as possible. It may be tempting to put off difficult conversations with your ex-partner, but the earlier you start planning the less stressful it will be.
As well as reducing stress, planning ahead will also give you time to sort out any issues that you are struggling to agree on. And ultimately, planning early will allow you to relax and look forward to the summer ahead with your children.
Create a Summer Parenting Schedule
A good way to start planning is to consider creating a summer parenting schedule. On this schedule you can plot out any key details such as, who will be looking after the children on each day, when any holidays have been booked, activity clubs, birthday parties, sports days, and other events they wish to attend, some of which you may attend alone, but others you may both want to attend.
Start by plotting what you already know about you and your children’s schedule. Once you have the dates you can share it with your ex and ask them to also add in their known plans. You will then have a good basis to start working together to agree arrangements.
We have created a summer parenting schedule template which you can use to start building out your own. If however, you find yourself needing extra help, then you can book an appointment to talk with one of our mediators.
Some Watch Outs!
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
As you start talking to your children about their wishes for the summer, be careful not to make any promises until you have a clear understanding of how your summer schedule will work. Your children will be excited about the possibility of days out and holidays but remember it’s important to talk to your ex about these plans before making any promises so you avoid the look of disappointment on their faces when your ideas and plans don’t come to fruition.
Put Your Children First
It’s important to remember to keep your children front of mind when arranging summer parenting plans. A clearly defined plan will help your children to feel secure knowing when and where they will spend time with each of you.
Remember to think about what’s best for your children. If your ex, or their extended family, are happy to look after them, wouldn’t your children prefer to spend time with family rather than being in childcare? Ask yourself what would be best for my children?
And importantly try to keep your children out of arguments about arrangements as they will often pick up on the conflict.
Talk To Your Ex
Depending on your relationship, this can often feel like the hardest thing to do, but it’s important to remember this is about making it right for the children.
It may help you feel more comfortable if you meet your ex to sort out plans in a neutral place, such as a café, or in the park, or perhaps you could arrange to do it over the phone or online. But wherever and however you decide to meet, do it without the children present, so that they are not affected if the conversation becomes tense.
Ideally, if you can, sit down together and work through the summer parenting schedule. Start with the things that you are already in agreement about, and then work through sorting the more difficult issues. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the size of the challenge break it down into bite-sized chunks. You’ll find it easier to reach agreement and before you know where you are there will only be a couple of days that aren’t covered.
You and your ex-partner will both have plans for the summer holidays that will include your children. Remember you are both entitled to spend time with your children and therefore you may need to be flexible and show your ex the same courtesy as you would want from them.
Whilst it’s not illegal to take your children on holiday within the UK without the other parent’s consent, this isn’t the case when you take your children out of the country. It’s essential you have consent from everyone who has parental responsibility. This is usually just Mum and Dad but in some cases, it can be other family members if for any reason you have been to court and the court has granted parental responsibility to other family members.
This means it’s important that you discuss your plans with your ex-partner as soon as possible, and before you book your holiday.
It may make them feel anxious that their children will be in a different country to them, so consider arranging a regular time for them to communicate with the children whilst you are away.
The long summer holidays should be a time for you to enjoy making memories with your children and by planning ahead there is no reason why, as a separated parent, you are not able to have a stress-free fun time with them.
Family mediation can help you to reach agreements on issues relating to children, as well as finance and property, click here to find out more about how family mediation could help you. You may also be eligible for £500 towards family mediation as part of the Government’s family mediation voucher scheme, click here for more information.