It's that time of year where summer wardrobes are being looked out (perhaps slightly prematurely given the April showers with which Scotland has recently been blessed!), TV adverts are focused on airline summer deals and temperatures here in the North East are just entering double figures. Summer is on its way!

For many, the summer holidays are a time to refresh, soak up some Vitamin C and enjoy many a BBQ, but for separated or blended families, it can be a tricky time to navigate where childcare and holidays are concerned.

School holidays are great, but often during June, July and August, routine and schedules go out the window- two things which can be necessary for the smooth running of separated or blended families. What can be done in the lead up and during holidays to keep things drama free?

1. Communicate – not just once, but clearly, early and often. Talking and making plans ahead of the game is key and disputes or arguments are more likely to be avoided if everyone knows and has agreed to the plan in advance. Things may change, and that's OK, the plan can be flexible. The most important thing is to keep talking.

2. Create a parenting plan – off the back of your discussions, draw up a parenting plan. This can include a rota for any additional holiday clubs or childcare, and detail who is going to be responsible for that. It can also be useful to record when each parent is working, to help families successful juggle work commitments through the holidays.

3. Get consent – it's always worth a reminder that if you plan to take a child out of the UK for the purposes of a holiday, you will need the consent of anyone else who has parental responsibilities and parental rights (PRRs) in respect of that child. Hopefully that consent will be forthcoming but if not, a court order will be required. 

4. Involve the children – this is dependent on their age and stage but encouraging the children to be a part of the discussion gives them a sense of ownership and reinforces their identity within the family unit. The holidays are predominantly for them and they may have great ideas of how to spend the time!

5. Meet and greets – if you are part of a blended family or there is a new partner, make sure everyone going on the holiday knows one another and has had some bonding time before departure. Set up group meals or sleepovers beforehand, so no one is a stranger. If possible, book accommodation which is set up in such a way that everyone has their own space to which they can escape if some quiet time is needed. Set down some ground rules and recognise that there will be arguments. No family, whatever its biological or other make up, goes on a holiday without some sort of wobbly being thrown at some point.

Most importantly, enjoy it! Family life can be hard but when you get it right and have a holiday of a lifetime booked, don't forget to sit back, relax and enjoy! Whether you are going alone with children or a new spouse, ex-spouse or step-parent is joining you, open yourself up to your new family structure and embrace the good memories which will be made. The notions of 'nuclear families' or '2.4 children' are of the past. These days, families come in all shapes and sizes.


Kate Bradbury