A quarter of British families are now single parent families with 1.8 million mothers and fathers raising their children alone. So as the excitement builds amongst children for the fast approaching half term break, it can be a difficult time for parents following divorce or separation.
Many parents can find themselves facing complicated childcare arrangements, financial pressures and trying to keep bored children occupied. Disagreements about where the children will spend time can flare up, reminding everyone that family life has changed and this can be a painful process.
With this in mind, here are our top 10 tips for parents to help take the pressure off the school holidays:
- List out holiday dates for the year: Make a list of all the school holiday dates and set up a joint calendar that both you and your ex can access and update to help with planning the holiday periods.
- Understand how much childcare you need: Identify how much childcare is needed so that your ex and any extended family can understand the situation, especially if you are also juggling work and annual leave.
- Share out the days with the children: Spread days together out over the school holidays so both of you have a chance to spend quality time with the children.
- Research travelling as a single parent: If you are thinking about taking your children away on holiday on your own, there are holiday companies who specialise in this, so research online or contact travel companies to find out more about travelling abroad as a single parent.
- Share the childcare with friends: Consider striking a deal with friends in the holidays to take turns looking after each other’s children.
- Involve older children in the decision-making: Try and do this whenever possible. You may need to try and work out ground rules with your ex over the bigger issues such as leaving older children unattended.
- Communicate with your ex: Try to keep them up to date on issues your child might not disclose such as exam revision so they can encourage them to study when they come to stay. If you or your ex wants to take the kids on holiday you may feel anxious, especially if the plan is to go abroad. Clear communication such as sharing information, itineraries, contact details and things such as how well your children can swim or what factor sun cream they will need, will help put both parents at ease. Try to keep in touch whilst on holiday even if it’s a quick phone call or text.
- Be flexible: Be prepared to review and change arrangements and to discuss these with your children as they grow older. Younger children may need frequent short visits, whereas teenagers may prefer to spend weekends with friends but have regular email or telephone contact and holidays with the non-resident parent. If plans need to be changed remember to consult your ex, especially before booking anything. If both parties try to be considerate it will make a big difference to the children.
- Look out for any changes in your child: If you notice they are moodier or more withdrawn than usual, it may be due to the changes going on around them. Find a quiet time and ask them how they are. Tell them you know things are different and strange. Allowing them to be part of decision-making may help with these feelings.
- Remember the extended family: Where possible, it is good for children to have continuing contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles from both sides of their birth family, for the stability they offer and the continuing link with their own origins. Keeping in touch can also offer practical help as they can help with child care.
Ultimately, a lot of this can be agreed in advance as part of a Parenting Plan. This written plan can be worked out between parents after they separate and it covers the practical issues of parenting.
It can help clarify the arrangements you need to put in place to care for your children after separation, without having to go to court. It can help you in dealings with your children’s other parent or carer, and it asks parents to put the best interests of their children first. Other benefits include:
It helps everyone involved know what is expected of them.
It acts as a valuable reference to go back to.
It sets out practical decisions about the children, such as living arrangements, education and health care.
Find out more about Parenting Plans or download our Template.