For recently divorced or separated couples with children it can be challenging to deal with holiday season, especially the first year. Now that this Summer’s break is over for most of us, its worth reflecting on how you all coped. Was it an overwhelming or stressful time trying to maintain the status quo? While many look forward to a summer holiday, a newly separated or divorced person often approaches this with panic, sadness, and dread. Whilst there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, there are things you can do to make it easier to cope.
1. Plan ahead and be organised:It pays to think ahead about the school holiday periods. There will be 6 weeks or so over the summer when your children won’t be at school. It’s an issue for every working family, but can be harder to manage for divorced parents. Make sure you have your children’s holiday dates well in advance and let your ex know what they are. Think about any child care arrangements you may need to put in place to cover times when you are working, and research what’s available. Talk to your ex about when you want to go on holiday with the children – otherwise you may find you have both planned to take the same weeks off.
2. Create new rituals and family traditions:While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it’s a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. Reassure your children that you will be OK while they are with the other parent and that holiday celebrations will continue, but in a different way – Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with them about new ideas for holidays.
3. Think about finances:Holiday periods can bring additional financial responsibilities into play – costs of child care being a major consideration.
4. Be upfront and offer reassurance:Just as you might feel concerned about your ex taking your children away, particularly if they are planning to go abroad, so your ex might feel concerned about your plans. If you are upfront about where you are going and what you are planning on doing, you may alleviate these concerns and make the process of agreeing holiday arrangements run more smoothly. Information sharing such as providing contact details is a good idea and can help everyone feel more at ease.
5. Agree contact:If your children will be with your ex for a holiday, you will naturally will miss them and want to have contact with them. On the other hand, the other parent needs quality time with his or her children too. So, agree telephone or email contact during the time your children to avoid any unnecessarily anxiety. If you interrupt the holiday too often you may make the other parent resentful, and could even upset your children. This is less of an issue with older children who have their own phones – but be aware that constant texts or calls may still be disruptive of the holiday.
6. Be compliant:If there are court orders in place in relation to your children, you must ensure that your holiday plans comply with the contents of those orders. Remember in Scotland, a child cannot leave the UK without the consent of any parent or person who holds parental rights and responsibilities.
7. Take care of yourself schedule time for rest, relaxation and nurturing:With and without the children around – the new world of your post-divorce situation may not always be easy but holiday times give you the opportunity to spend more time with your children – and also potentially a longer period without them. You will miss them – but it can also give you an opportunity to focus on yourself. So, get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It’s easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems.
8. Take one day at a time; one holiday at a time:It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time! Be realistic too. “Picture perfect” holidays are usually just an illusion. So, have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially in the first year.
If you’re struggling with the holiday blues why not contact one of our Family Consultants who can support you in this transitional period of your life. Take a look at our video to see if the Collaborative approach might work for you.