It’s that time of year again. Six or eight weeks of carefree summer days for your children to enjoy. That also means six or eight long weeks when you are responsible for keeping them entertained and out of mischief.
A fortnight is easy because we all tend to take a two-week holiday over the summer. But the rest of the time can be a complicated mishmash of play dates, organised activities and relatives helping out.
The good news is that many separated parents now have an extra resource over the summer holiday. Whereas when you were together, you went away together, now you will be taking separate holidays and each of you can spend time alone with your children.
So the childcare over the summer can be easier, but you need to ensure you have planned it well and that you both understand the arrangements. Here are my top tips for how to create a joint parenting plan to survive the school holidays after divorce:
Agree and write up a joint calendar
That includes where your children will be over the whole summer. Include pick up and drop off times and venues. Include special days like family birthdays or special family celebrations. Include any courses the children are booked on. Include everything.
Include the details in the plan
Think about holidays away from home that either of you are planning. When is your flight or ferry and how does that impact when the children need to be with you? Think ahead about special clothing or equipment your child might need and if that is kept with the other parent - don’t leave it until the last minute to tell them. Who has the passports and how and when will these be given to the travelling parent and who will hold onto them afterwards? Think of everything and include it in the plan.
Include how you will communicate
Think about communication while the children are away on holiday with one parent. But also think about day-to-day communication. How do you want to share photos and news of happy days – if at all (see my blog on Social Media Etiquette)? How do you want to share details of health issues? Technology provides us with so many ways to communicate these days, but sometimes there is no phone or Internet coverage in holiday destinations – what then?
Include your wider family in the plan
The summer holidays are a wonderful time to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends and these people are more important than ever to your children. Have you allocated time to them in the plan?
Include the ‘boring times’ as well as the good times
The summer holidays are great fun. But there are also the rainy Monday afternoons when the children are bored and crabby. There are sometimes school projects to be completed and the inevitable purchase of new shoes and visits to the dentist and hairdresser. How are you going to share these times so that they don’t fall onto one parent’s shoulders? Consideration should also be given to the costs of the summer holidays and return to school; how will you share these between you?
Having created the plan, stick to it!
There is nothing that undermines trust faster than a parent going back on plans that have been made for no good reason. Remember that what is going to be most important to your children in the long term is a good relationship with each parent and a lack of conflict between you. So if you have to change the plan, ask yourself whether it is important enough to come before these long-term goals?
Set yourselves up for success
Think about how you can support your co-parent to help you. For example, send everything you know the children will need; sunscreen, hats, water, perhaps a change of clothes.
This means turning up on time for pick ups and drop offs, or letting your co-parent know if you will be late. Phone if you say you will phone. Be pleasant and polite at handovers.
Let it go
Things won’t always go to plan. That’s life. As the popular Frozen song says: Let it go. Be tolerant and remember the big picture.
If you are struggling to create your own plan, mediation can help. Call Polly on 07706 513496 or email email@example.com.