How can separated parents plan for the summer holidays?

read time: 5 mins

As the weather starts to improve, thoughts can quickly turn to the upcoming summer ahead. The school summer holidays in particular can be a challenge for separated parents, when trying to juggle plans for the children alongside their work. Navigating a plan for the summer to incorporate trips, holiday clubs and other activities can be overwhelming and a challenging balancing act. 

Our guide suggests how separated families can create a successful plan for the upcoming summer holidays, to ultimately reduce stress for both parents.

Early planning

Making plans for the summer period early is essential. Leaving plans to the last minute often adds additional stress, difficulty in managing expectations and with added time pressure it can lead to heightened emotions for separated parents. 

If you can, have a discussion as soon as possible about the arrangements or set out proposals in writing as to how to split the holidays in a way that is fair and suits the family. Will the children be going on any holidays within the UK or abroad? These often need to be booked in advance, and so making sure that the holidays are discussed sooner rather than later can be very helpful for travel plans, as well as arranging annual leave from work and alternative childcare.

How can separated families share their time?

It is important to remember that no two families are the same. If you have a court order or a parenting plan, these may be prescriptive as to how the holidays should be arranged. Alternatively, it may be entirely flexible and up to the parents to decide together. Often parents look to broadly share the holidays equally. However, this is not always suitable for the children or the parents. 

Some families choose to alternate the weeks so that the children spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other. Others choose to split the weeks or do a combination so they can go on holiday with the children, but also spend shorter periods of time together after the trips. Limiting long periods of travel on consecutive days is often favoured, and so working out the likely journeys and where they fit into the schedule in advance can really help set out a clear structure for the arrangements. 

Aside from deciding where the children spend their time, it is also helpful to consider whether family or friends will help with childcare when annual leave is not possible. Also, whether the children will go to holiday clubs or a childminder. Again, booking early can be essential. 

Taking the children abroad

It is a good idea to discuss holidays within the UK and abroad with the other parent well in advance. Considering where the children’s passports are and agreeing for when these will be returned to the other parent is essential. Vaccinations, travel insurance and any medications they may need whilst away should also be factored into discussions. 

Anyone with parental responsibility must consent to a child travelling abroad. As such, if you are separated, ensure you seek the consent of the other parent before you travel. Ideally, arrange for a written document recording the permission and check the requirements of the country you are travelling to. Some countries have specific forms which need to be signed. 

Once flights and accommodation are booked, it is a good idea to give the confirmed details and your rough plans to the other parent, as well as emergency contact details for the duration of your trip.

Keeping in touch 

Some parents like to have a set routine when the children will call or video call the other parent during extended holiday periods. This is particularly helpful for young children who are perhaps not used to spending a full week without the other parent. Young children tend to struggle to focus and keep their attention on longer calls so lining up more regular but short calls may be more suitable. 

Others families prefer to keep things flexible and enable the children to speak to the other parent whenever they decide they want to. It depends what works for both the children and the family as to what will suit the situation. 

Looking ahead 

Once a plan has been agreed or whilst considering one, it is worthwhile thinking about getting the children ready for the new school year. Do they need to be taken to get new school uniform or school shoes? Do they need to do any preparatory work or reading? If children will be getting the bus or walking to school for the first time, do they need to be shown the route so it doesn’t become a last minute rush with neither parent knowing if the other is taking care of these things?

Sometimes, parents set a routine that can be replicated across the following year(s) or rotated so that plans can be made early for next year’s trips. It is a good idea to reflect on how the arrangements have worked for the children and both parents over the summer and see if any tweaks are needed to make things work better the following year.

Help is on hand

If an agreement cannot be reached, help is available. A mediation session could be arranged to discuss and agree plans or help from a solicitor can also be sought. Court applications can be made as a last resort, for example to determine if the children can travel abroad where this cannot be agreed between the parents. Reaching out for help in plenty of time will be crucial to making sure a resolution can be reached before the holidays start, minimising the stress for parents.

For more information please contact Megan Prideaux.

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