Where has the year gone?! The end of Term 1 school holidays are not far off and whether or not you are going to be travelling, the holidays always require an adjustment to parenting and co-parenting routines. So here are our top tips for making co-parenting the school holidays go as smoothly as possible after you’ve separated.
Negotiate arrangements early
- Minimise conflict with your ex-partner by agreeing on arrangements for the school holidays early. Once you have negotiated a plan for the year or a period of time with your ex-partner, add the dates to a calendar with the kids, so that they can have a sense of involvement and will know where they are going to be.
Be a good communicator
- Communicate with your ex as best as you can. If handing over the kids for the break, make sure you have figured out any necessary ground rules for the kids or any issues beforehand. If possible, keep the other parent up-to-date on any issues your child might not disclose to them. You might need to review arrangements as your children grow older and their needs change.
Prepare the kids
- If your children are traveling during the holidays, review travel plans with them, so you can acknowledge and alleviate any fears and anxieties regarding their upcoming travels.
Prepare each other
- If your ex wants to take the kids away on holiday you will probably feel anxious too, especially if the plan is to go overseas. Sharing information, itineraries, contact details and other important information helps both parent. Try to keep in contact during the holiday, even if it’s just a quick call or a text. A little reassurance goes a long way–for the parent who is not with the kids, as well as for the kids.
- When sharing the school holidays between each of you, continue to ensure changeovers are stress-free. Avoid conflict at changeover by having a neutral pick-up point or have a friend with you to act as a buffer.
Get support from your tribe, not your kids
- Accept that you may experience a variety of emotions when your children are away: loneliness, relief, hurt and often guilt. It’s important to share those feelings with another adult, not the child.
Listen to your child
- Allow your child to express their feelings. Find a quiet time and ask them how they are. Tell them you know it is different and strange.
Don’t be a drama queen
- Act normal. Don’t send the children off with a display of sadness, disappointment or anger. They should not be made to feel guilty or conflicted. Encourage them to enjoy themselves and tell them you’ll be looking forward to seeing them when they return to you.
Look after you
- Take your mind off missing them by staying busy. Catch up with friends or do something for yourself. Do things to satisfy your own needs for once: take a walk, go to a grown-up movie or lunch with an old friend.
- Minimise the tough times. Know you will feel bad, but know it will end. Do stuff you never have time for. If you’re lonely, reach out to some kind of support group, even online. You’ll realise you are not the only one. Create new rituals for yourself. Find new, fun things to do. Sharing the school holidays means realising you have the rare experience of having a serious chunk of time without the kids and the freedom to do whatever you like!
Get the kids involved
- When you have the kids during the holidays, involve them in the holiday planning processes where possible, especially as they get older. When they are invited to contribute ideas, there will be fewer complaints along the way.
Look into single parent deals
- Seek out deals for single parents. Many travel companies have special deals for single parents, offering facilities and packages especially designed for holidaying single parents and their children. There are some companies who specialise in this, so it’s worth doing a bit of research online. Seek out destinations that provide stimulating childcare and entertainment choices for children if you wish to have a little adult time to pursue your own interests too.
Don’t blow the budget
- Stick to your budget. There is plenty of good, cheap family accommodation available, such as the YHA chain. Alternatively, you might consider teaming up with another single family or friend to share costs.
Plan to travel safe
- Plan for safety. Safety is a real concern among single parents so always ensure a family member or friend knows your itinerary and plans. Talk to your kids about safety do’s and don’ts before you go; practice what to do in certain situations. Wristbands for the kids, with contact info, might help alleviate some stress about them getting lost.
Go easy on yourself
- Understand the unique pressures you have, and be kind to yourself. Single parent travel presents challenges unlike any other family holiday—there are the added expenses, lack of support and absence of down time. Sometimes, a new location seems to trigger kids to push boundaries, so make sure the kids understand that being on holidays doesn’t mean having no rules at all.
Remember to have fun
- Remember to have fun, be spontaneous, and create new family traditions and rituals. Holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend time together as a family and whether or not you go away or have a staycation, it’s a chance to create memories that will last a lifetime.
You may also like to read our previous blog on co-parenting the school holidays and travel, in particular looking at the rules about travelling interstate and overseas.
If you have any questions about how to arrange parenting matters with your ex to minimise conflict, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or any of our team of experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.