The kids have settled into the new school year and you’re making gains at work. Life is pretty cruisy now that you’re all back into the swing of things and everyone appears to be thriving with the routine. But somehow, you’ve lost track of time (because it flies by so fast these days) and you find yourself already in April – it’s the school holidays. Again.
So, you do what any normal parent does at a time like this and you start to fret. Because, you know deep down that the holidays are not relaxing and enjoyable. Instead of feeling sheer bliss at the prospect of some well- deserved “RnR”, the focus turns to co-ordinating parenting schedules and timetables.
Being a newly separated parent is fraught with difficulties and grasping the concept of co-parenting is already enough to make your eyes water and having to do so during the holiday season is a frequent source of conflict for separated parents.
The Family Law experts at Madison Marcus compiled some useful and practical tips to ensure that the holidays run as smoothly as a well-oiled machine.
1. Prioritise the kids
It’s quite easy sometimes to lose sight of the children and their needs when in times of high conflict. The planning of competing holiday schedules should always be completely child-focused. This means that you must ensure that the children spend quality time with both parents. Keep the petty squabbling and negativity away from the attention of the children, and above all else – enjoy the time you get to spend with the children. It may not be as much time as you’d like, but always make the most of it. Keeping a smile on your face will give the children such precious memories that they will cherish always.
On the other hand, if you are feeling a little sad about the empty nest in times where the children are away with the other parent, reach out to your tribe. It’s important to share those feelings with other adults and not the children.
Keep busy and use this time to do something for yourself for a change.
2. Communicate well
Your orders or parenting plan will typically outline the parenting schedule during special events and school holidays. We suggest using the document as an opportunity to open the lines of communication with your ex-partner to respectfully clarify the arrangements, particularly when your expectations may differ to that of the other parent. It doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out discussion on the minutiae of your itinerary and a short email or message to the other parent will suffice. We suggest framing it in a similar way to this – “Hi there, I’m just touching base with you to confirm the arrangements with the children these holidays. My understanding of the arrangements is that the children will spend time with me on the following days and times. Is that also your understanding?”
In the majority of cases, the orders are pretty clearly set-out for holidays and special occasions, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm that you’re both on the same wave length.
3. Begin planning WELL in advance
We cannot express how important it is be organised. Familiarise yourself with the arrangements and if something isn’t 100% clear to you, reach out to the other parent. Ironing out any potential misunderstandings or flaws in the orders well in advance will minimise any last-minute headaches. We suggest doing so a couple of weeks to a month before the holidays start. Remember – having the same expectations as the other parent is the key to holiday happiness.
4. Be flexible and expect the unexpected
Things don’t always go to plan during the holidays and surprises are bound to happen. Flights being cancelled, Balinese volcanos erupting, the children getting sick or family from out of town dropping in unexpectedly can certainly put a spanner in the works. Be prepared to negotiate with the other parent if unexpected situations arise and always offer the other parent make-up time. You would expect the other parent to offer you the same courtesy if the situation was reversed.
And – if you ARE the other parent in this situation, it’s important to keep your cool. Just act normal and accept that sometimes things happen that are out of one’s control.
We also suggest adding the arrangements to a calendar with the children so that they can have a chance to get excited and know where they will be and when. This will also help in preparing them for the journey ahead, particularly if travel is required.
Flying off the handle will only make the children feel guilty or conflicted. So, we suggest remembering you are the responsible, mature adults, and encourage the children to enjoy themselves and let them know that you look forward to seeing them when they return.
5. Keep it REAL
Sadly, parents often feel the need to overcompensate as a way of atoning for splitting up the family. However, you’re not going to buy your children’s love or forgiveness by splashing out on extravagant experiences come holiday time. Realistically, the children aren’t likely to notice whether they’re staying at a 5 star hotel or camping, on an African Safari or at the zoo or whether they’re eating caviar or fish fingers.
The only thing you’ll succeed at doing is completely blowing the budget and giving the children an incurable case of boredom.
For more information or enquiries regarding all areas of Family Law i.e children’s matters, divorce and property division, please contact our Family Law Experts at Madison Marcus today.