Surviving summer and divorce

Surviving summer and divorce? Really? Yes, it is possible! Whether you are newly separated and divorced or you’ve been through the holidays as a single parent before, it can be an emotionally challenging time. Dreading having to cope alone, or negotiate with your former partner just who will have the children and when, and who will pay for summer treats and new school uniforms?  Here are some tips on surviving summer and divorce.

Focus, Focus, Focus

When you’re feeling stressed, keep focused. When you’re feeling angry, keep focused. When you want to scream and shout, or disengage with your former partner, keep focused. Keep focused on the fact that you and your former partner have to work together for the sake of your children.

Create a plan and stick to it

The school holidays may have started but it’s not too late to create a plan. Plans are only worth something if you stick to them. Have conversations about creating a plan away from your children – they don’t need to hear what the two of you discuss. Creating a plan is beneficial because if you can make it work, the whole family benefits from the certainty that it creates. It gives each of you flexibility to enjoy other things in your lives. It gives the children a greater sense of security if they know what is happening and when.

Don’t take anything personally

It’s often easier said than done, but when we are upset, afraid, angry or scared we say things we don’t mean and we can take what is said personally. Relationship breakdown is hard. Hard for you and hard for your former partner, hard for the leaver and the left. Hard for your children. Remember though that when your former partner lashes out, it’s about them – their insecurities, anger (fear), it’s not about you. Equally, be willing to accept and look at what it is that causes you to lash out. Are you angry because you’re hurt and you can’t admit it? Are you angry because you’re scared about the future and want to deny it? The resilience of both of you is being tested, so cut each other some slack. Focus on what’s important.

Keep perspective

Keeping perspective will help you move through your divorce and the challenging summer holidays. Perhaps 6 weeks feels like an eternity right now, but you do know that before you can say “new school shoes”, you’ll be back to the crazy breakfast time routine and the school run. What can you do to minimise the stress for yourself? Get the children involved (in an age appropriate way), in planning their time this summer. What activities do they want to do (budget permitting)? What help and support can the in-laws be? Can you share childcare with other parents so both sets of children benefit from having playmates?

Keep working on communication

Accept that you and your former partner may be working on your communication for the next 20 years. You see, co-parenting can be challenging but it will only be as difficult as you both make it. Of course, you’re not in charge of your former partner and how they behave, but if you change the way you communicate with them, its more likely that they will change their communication style with you. Avoid sending text messages when trust is low. Don’t assume the worst in what your former partner says. Perhaps they do mean what they say, but could there be another explanation? Remember that you may not be married forever, but you will  always be ‘family’ in it’s broadest sense. Start now creating a new relationship with one another, as your children grow, so can your relationship as co-parents.

Decide what’s really important right now

You can decide what’s important right now. Looking forward to spending time with the children this summer? Do it. Is it really necessary to spend the summer at the solicitor’s office? Time with your children is time to enjoy – you never get it back. Unless it’s critical that you engage a lawyer or mediator right now, can you park it until September? What would be the benefits to you and the whole family if you did that? Book an appointment for a MIAM or to see a solicitor for September, if that makes you feel better, but give yourself sometime just to relax and enjoy a break. The solicitor will still be there once the children are back in school. If you want to be proactive, begin to gather together your financial paperwork for disclosure, or start working on a Parenting Plan.

Be open to compromise

People rarely get everything they want in life, and divorce is no exception. Be prepared to compromise. Accept that you may have to agree to things that don’t really suit you for the sake of your children. Accept that you may not see the children as much as you’d like. Accept that your children do need a relationship with both of you and the only body that can decide to the contrary, is a court. Compromising gives you emotional freedom from holding on to principles that are expensive and unrealistic. Compromising is healthy for you and your children’s other parent and for your children too. If you can’t or won’t compromise, how will your children learn that skill?

Get the blueprint right now

Get the blueprint right from the start, and it will take an enormous amount of pressure off you and the whole family. What works well now can form the basis of what happens at half-term, Christmas and next summer. But remember, if things go a bit off piste, just start again. There’s always an opportunity to fix things and keep trying. 

Emma Heptonstall is a Family Mediator with Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York, United 01904 697760