Single parents will be bracing themselves for the October half term this year, as the Coram Holiday Childcare Survey 2023 found that just 24% of local authorities in England have enough holiday childcare for parents working full time. This comes after a survey from UNICEF found that over half of all parents (66%) with young children under 5 in Britain are struggling financially.
With this in mind and half term just around the corner, Jennifer Moore, Legal Director at Rayden Solicitors and expert in child contact/custody disputes has shared her insights into how to co-parent during the autumn break successfully when finances could be adding further pressure.
“The breakdown of a relationship can be stressful, traumatic and heartbreaking. However, when a child is involved, we would encourage you to find a way to communicate with your child’s other parent.”
“You may find a designated email address helpful to limit communication to one medium, and you are then in control of how frequently this is checked. Alternatively, a contact diary which travels with your child between homes has been helpful for lots of families, allowing each parent to write down any information which it would be helpful for the other to know”.
Plan in advance
“Over half term, both parents will likely want to make plans and spend time with their child; so it’s important that arrangements are confirmed in order to allow each parent to organise activities, days out and trips without causing any unnecessary friction.”
“This is especially true if one or both parties will have a long journey in order to facilitate handovers. It’s worth thinking about the logistics as early as possible when considering your co-parenting arrangements. Apps like OurFamilyWizard or Cozi are some of our favourites to help make co-parenting work seamlessly.”
Be flexible (when you can)
“Depending on your child’s age, there are likely to be many weeks, months and years of co-parenting ahead and affording the other parent some flexibility is likely to pay dividends when it comes to establishing a positive co-parenting relationship.”
“It is, however, possible to have too much of a good thing, and if your ex is constantly asking you to change your plans under the guise of flexibility, then consider whether they are in fact trying to undermine the agreement you have reached. If that is the case, you could either refuse the proposed changes or instead suggest that you both re-consider the arrangements, in light of the fact that they are clearly not working as intended.”
“Also, remember that flexibility needs to be mutual, you shouldn’t always be the parent compromising.”
Set boundaries and aim for parenting consistency
“Whilst your child going to bed half an hour later than they would at your house is not the end of the world, an overall consistent approach avoids confusion for your child. The rules don’t have to be the same in each household, but your child should know what the basic boundaries and expectations are.”
“We’d recommend avoiding interrogating the children after time spent with the other parent, as this involves the children in the parent’s problems unnecessarily.”
“However strong your negative feelings towards your former partner are, don’t use the children as “pawns” by using them to punish the other parent. This can lead to difficult relationships as your children grow up and form a view of how their parents dealt with contact.”
Accept that it is challenging and remember to respect each other
“There are times when co-parenting will be challenging. It is okay not to always like each other, as long as you continue to respect each other as parents.”
“Try to recognise that you will both play an important role in your child’s life and value the positive contributions that you both make, no matter how small.”
Half-term can provide families with some much-needed additional time to spend together. However, amid the Cost of Living Crisis, newly single parents may find themselves navigating a delicate balance between co-parenting responsibilities and financial concerns this autumn.