Summer lovin’ or summer stress?
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine summertime conjuring up anything other than images of long sunny days, fun-packed family outings, lazy afternoons and picnics in the park - the joyful sound of your children’s merriment as the audio backdrop to each scenario.
But if you’re divorced or separated, the process of tackling the summer timetabling and sorting out the parenting arrangements with your ex can, for some families, create a brand new source of anxiety, tension and argument.
Sunny D or Bitter Lemon?
Furthermore, when parents are struggling to agree a schedule or are thrashing out subsequent changes, children can become exposed to conflict and division - the net result of which can be a worried and upset child, with their memories of summer tainted.
So, how to avoid this?
Our guide to happy holidays
We’ve put together a short guide below that offers you some practical pointers to both creating a summer schedule that everyone is happy with and ensuring you can enjoy the holiday period too.
Your main mantra: Children First
It can feel immensely difficult to put your own feelings to one side but most children love quality, meaningful time with BOTH parents and it’s essential that they get this. Always ask yourself ‘have I considered my child first and foremost?’, ‘is this what they would want?’, ‘will they be happy?’
Be flexible from the offset
Following on from No. 1, try to be reasonable and fair in accommodating requests as well as making your own requests. It’s always a process of give and take. Consider whether distance plays a part in contact during the school year – if one parent lives far away, the summer holidays can present an opportunity for children to spend valuable time with that parent and their extended family (grandparents, cousins…etc.). When planning this time, it’s worth bearing in mind the age of the children and their emotional tolerance for being away from the parent who provides the primary care during the school year.
Recognise that ‘change’ happens
Plans may have to change both in the short-term (perhaps due to work, family or health issues) and long-term (people re-marry and/or relocate, children’s interests change…etc.), all of which can have an impact on making arrangements. Acknowledging that ‘change’ can and will happen at some point will help your overall mindset as well as your ability to be flexible and deal with those changes when they happen.
Remember that children worry (even if they don’t tell you)
Even throw-away or seemingly innocuous comments such as ‘mum is being really difficult’ or ‘dad is making planning for summer impossible’ can upset, worry and stress children. Try to keep negative feelings, frustrations and reactions to yourself. If anything major requires discussion with your ex, do it when you are calmer and without your children present.
Allow plenty of time to arrange the summer schedule. This will help avoid any holiday clashes, manage respective work timetables and handle any court order deviations with sufficient notice. Advance planning will significantly reduce any time-related stress and pressure that can be associated with creating a schedule.
Allow older children and teenagers to have a say in the planning
Once you and your ex have been able to agree a plan of where the children will spend their time, invite the children to voice ideas for what they might like to do, or perhaps give them a selection of ideas to choose from so they still have a say. This can be particularly important for older children who often look forward to time with friends during summer.
Let your child see you are excited about ALL their summer plans
Be excited for all the plans your child has over the summer holidays, including those that have been arranged by your ex and exclude you. Remember to let your children know you are happy for them and all the experiences they will have.
Keep busy, make your own plans
If can be extremely difficult during the holidays when your children aren’t with you, particularly if you’re the primary carer and the house can suddenly seem quiet and empty. Treat it as an opportunity to plan things you rarely get to do with the kids around – have fun, do something new, treat yourself, relax and recharge.
Bring on the sun, sea and sand!
The holidays don’t need to be a minefield of anxiety and stress, for you or your children.
With some careful planning and communication, it can still be a special time for the whole family to enjoy. Most importantly, you can let your children focus on the excitement, adventure and fun that summer brings.
If you’d like any help or advice on creating an amicable and workable summer contact arrangement, please contact us on 01606 48777.
Whatever you and your family choose to do, ‘Happy Holidays!’ From all at SH&Co xxx