Parenting apart during the school holidays

The long summer holidays can prove to be a particularly challenging time for parents: keeping children entertained whilst juggling work is very difficult, particularly for parents who are bring up children alone.

For parents who are parenting apart, complicated childcare arrangements and financial pressures can all become magnified during the school holidays. In addition, disagreements about where the children will spend time tend to flare up, leading to painful situations for the adults and children.

Sharing childcare is perhaps the biggest issue for divorced or separated parents. Planning ahead can prove to be incredibly helpful and making a list of school holiday dates and how much childcare will be required is a sensible way to make sure everyone understands the situation. Try to spread out the time you spend with the children across the holidays so that both of you get to spend equal amounts of quality time with your children.

When your children leave to spend time with your ex, this can be very difficult to cope with, especially at first. It’s very important to share your feelings with another adult – not with your children – children pick up on adult emotions very quickly and can feel torn, guilty and confused.

Continuing contact with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from both sides of the family can prove to be hugely beneficial, not just during the holidays but throughout the year. Contact with extended family offers stability and can be a practical way of finding additional help with childcare.

Children need to be involved in the decisions which are made about childcare during the school holidays, especially when they get older. It’s a good idea to discuss with your ex the details of any ground rules you may want to lay down, for example leaving older children at home on their own. When you’ve worked out a childcare plan for the holidays, write the dates on a calendar with your children as this is a good way of keeping them involved but be prepared to review and change arrangements as children get older. Teenagers often prefer to spend their weekends with their friends whilst younger children find frequent, short visits easier to cope with. All children are different though so be prepared to be flexible and spend time talking to your children about what they’d prefer to do.

Should you or your ex decide to take the children away on holiday, this can be an anxious time for the other parent, especially if the holiday is abroad. Communication is key and sharing information on itineraries and contact details will help you both feel at ease. It’s also important to keep in contact with your ex when you are away; even it is a quick phone call or text message.

The most important thing to remember is to keep your children involved in all the decision you make: boundaries are important but children still need to have a feeling of control within those boundaries.

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