For separated or divorced families, the summer holidays are often fraught with practical challenges (and worries) when trying to agree contact time and holidays abroad with the children. Here are some tips on how best to prepare for summer contact.
- Plan ahead - Make plans well in advance and consider the practicalities. Try to agree a schedule of dates, handover times and places well in advance. Both parents should accept that there needs to be a degree of flexibility, but you need a framework so that the children know what they are doing and when. Think about what the children want and what is going to be least disruptive for them during their summer holiday. Logistics and the practical steps for the handover of the child from one parent to another can sometimes be a struggle. How long is it going to take to get from A to B ? How much is it going to cost and who is going to pay? If both parents want to take the child to an event taking place on the same day, talk about it well in advance to work out if they can both be accommodated. Does your partner have last minute tickets to the Olympics, but you have organised to visit Grandma? Try to think about things objectively and in the best interests of the child. Remember that you will both need to agree in advance if the child has to miss any school time.
- Passports - Which parent holds the passports and how will they be transferred from one parent to the other? Do the children also have identity cards that they can travel with and have they had the necessary inoculations for that trip to Africa?
- Inform and be informed - Do you know the detail of flights, timings and other transport arranged? What about the accommodation address? Get as much information as possible about the holiday with the other parent and give as much information & detail to the other parent about your own holiday plans. There has to be a bit of give and take. If there is a concern that a child will not be returned following a period of contact abroad, speak to a lawyer and ensure safeguards are in place such as a written assurance they child will be returned on a certain date, and details of the return flight.
- Telephone - Separated parents can often disagree about when and how telephone contact should take place. It may be difficult to fit this into a busy holiday schedule, so you should try to agree in advance whether your child will telephone the other parent every day and the best time for it. Think about the practicalities and costs of using a mobile phone abroad. Is there a landline available? What time of day will be most practical for the children to speak to the other parent? International calling cards should be on your holiday shopping list.
- Suitcases - It may seem ridiculous, but the practical arrangements make all the difference. For example, who is going to wash the children's clothes and pack their suitcases? There is nothing more frustrating than a parent receiving a suitcase (or two!) full of dirty washing on a child's return from holiday with the other parent, especially if he/she is taking a holiday soon after. Who is going to provide and pack suitcases and what is required for the particular holiday? Do the children need their snorkelling gear or their skiing clothes? Don't leave all of the practical arrangements to one parent, as this is bound to cause an argument.
- Communication - Prevent, where possible, any difficult holiday planning discussions from taking place in front of the children. Focus on enjoying the summer holidays with them.