The summer holidays are pretty chaotic for any family – keeping a child entertained every day for over a month is no mean feat – let alone for a family that has undergone a recent separation.
When the six weeks holiday rolls around, this will be a huge bank of time for you and your ex to try and divide between you. You both will probably have plans for different holidays that you both, naturally, want your child to join you for. These weeks away may well clash with other plans, which requires a bit of to-and-fro negotiation between you and your child’s co-parent. Basically, it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare.
It’s really frustrating to feel like you’ve got loads of wonderful plans lined up for the summer, and then half of them have to be cancelled, altered or rearranged. But ultimately, your number one focus should be about equally and fairly splitting the summer between you and your ex, so that your child can enjoy spending their time with you both.
We’ve listed our top tips below that will help make the holiday planning process a whole lot more manageable.
Remember: it all boils down to the fact that the more you can work together, the happier your child’s holiday will be. (Keep this in mind during those moments where you inevitably get a bit wound up by your ex’s lack of organisation).
Set a clear schedule that’s easy to follow and realistic, too. Keep the time that your child spends with each of you equal – this could either involve splitting the time by day or by week. Be flexible, and work together to come up with a plan that works best for you both.
Set about creating up a blueprint together that splits your holiday and how you’re going to share the days. Then, once you’ve outlined this plan, create a shared calendar (you could use Google Docs, or see our list of our recommended co-parenting apps) online, so that you can both keep track of it.
If you do at any point decide that you both want to stray from the blueprint slightly, it might be a good idea to write down the details and then both sign off this agreement to the change in your plans (especially if it’s one that you’ve created as part of a co-parenting plan). It might sound picky, but it’ll minimise any potential arguments later.
On another point, successful holiday coordination also means sharing the costs, too. However, you both organise your co-parenting finances, make sure that you try to split the costs of any extracurricular activities fairly (because they really add up!).
If you’ve got something booked in, or you’re ready to go ahead and pay for some flights, keep your ex informed about these plans as soon as possible. The earlier you speak to them, the less likely it is that any disagreements or clashes will occur.
The summer holidays are bound to be a bit unpredictable here and there, but this is what makes them so fun for your child.
So it’s a bit of a balancing act – keep your ex informed about any key, immovable plans as soon as possible, so that you both know which dates are non-negotiable. But then, there will be times where you can both be flexible and work with each other to establish a plan that suits you both well, without the need for complete military precision mapping out the holiday 24/7.
Other fixed plans could involve large family gatherings. If you and your ex are both invited to a big family party, let each other know straight away, but don’t agree to it until slightly closer to the time. Then, if you do both decide to go, it should only be if you both know that you can be civil and get along. Your child should feel comfortable and happy at this family occasion, without having to witness any bitterness between you both. If it doesn’t seem like a wise idea, don’t feel bad for the host if only one of you is able to attend, it’s certainly the best thing to do for your child.
Don’t go into the task of planning the holiday or shape your itinerary for the time that you have with your child with a tit-for-tat approach. It’s all too easy to get competitive about who’s got the most expensive holiday or the most day trips, but make sure that you avoid this mindset.
It’s really important that you aren’t trying to one-up each other, by providing a more lavish expensive holiday plan in an attempt to out-do your ex. It will only create tension between you both. Plus, your child will be too occupied with guilt to even enjoy these activities anyway.
The matter of how much money you’re spending is completely irrelevant – the best way to make your child happy is by being loving, attentive and just spending some quality time with them.
Work with each other, and have each other’s backs. If your ex desperately wants to take your child to a big last-minute BBQ with their side of the family, consider adjusting the days so that you get to pick out another time to see your child. Rather than being deliberately obstructive and creating barriers from the start, you’ll find that the more flexible you are, the more this favour will be returned to you.
Obviously there are limits to this: it shouldn’t interrupt any big plans that you have. But, if you had only planned an evening in watching the TV, doing your ex a favour in this way will keep your child happy, fill their holiday with experiences that they enjoy, and these cooperative co-parenting practices will benefit you next time around, when the situations are reversed.
Should you require it, you can help cement these plans with the help of dispute resolution services like a mediator, or by outlining them in your co-parenting plan. This outline could cover, for example, which three weeks of the holiday will go to which parent, along with a more detailed breakdown of this time. Although this might limit your flexibility when it comes to more impromptu days out or last-minute plans, it will certainly help to solve any disagreements. So, if you find you are increasingly bickering about the holiday, save yourselves some stress and energy and agree upon a plan in this way.
Above all, try not to worry too much about providing your child with the absolute perfect jam-packed holiday – they will, realistically, be happy with a day spent playing in the garden. What’s most important for them is getting to see both of their parents. If you have to cancel the odd day out to accommodate your ex’s pre-booked holiday with your child, don’t sweat the small stuff. So long as your child is happy, that’s all that matters.
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