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National Family Mediation, 15 MAY 2019

Now is a good time to sort summer holiday parenting arrangements

Jane  Robey

Chief Executive, NFM

@NatFamMediation

Now is a good time to sort summer holiday parenting arrangements

It might feel like heady summer days are a long way off, but the upcoming Spring bank holiday signals there are only a few weeks til the schools close for what can feel to a parent like an eternity.

For parents who are newly separated, that long summer vacation brings huge uncharted challenges. The two-week Easter break will have given a flavour of what’s to come, but in July children will face a six-week layoff from the usual routine.

Even parents who’ve been apart for some time find changes to arrangements are needed most summers. Plans that worked well before have become outdated because the children are growing up with their needs and interests changing, and of course the circumstances of the parents’ own lives have evolved – perhaps they have a new job, a new partner, or completely different domestic arrangements.

Arguments and differences between separated parents often reach breaking point during holiday periods. 

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A number of factors force them into crisis when the schools close for the summer: changes in established daily routines, and the expense of keeping family members entertained, for example.

Long-standing pick-up, drop-offs and living arrangements can be exposed as inadequate in the lengthy holiday. Frustrations and resentments can easily resurface, and the children are caught in the middle.

Those who wait until the school term ends before planning parenting arrangements through July and August find it can be too late to influence what then too easily becomes a six-week nightmare.

That is why our professional recommendation to parents is they start looking ahead and putting suitable plans in place in advance, in May or June.

A Parenting Plan, agreed by both parents and with flexibility built in, is easier to achieve than many people think. A Parenting Plan is an agreement made by separated parents, covering how the children will be supported and cared for after separation or divorce. It’s easier to agree a Plan between the two adults involved than many people think, and its value is that both tailor it to suit their own circumstances.

As time goes on, and as the child grows up and parents’ jobs and relationships change, the Parenting Plan can be updated to match shifting needs. It’s not just parents whose requirements change over time; the children’s do too – and fast - as they grow up. 

A Parenting Plan makes sense on so many levels, so my advice to separated parents is to take some time right now to head off last-minute summer panic by planning ahead.