01 August 2014

Tips for a stress-free summer for families

Lisa Boileau Partner & Head of Family

The schools have broken up and the summer holidays are here. For many it’s a time for the family to unwind and spend quality time together however, for some families holidays aren’t the fun they’re cracked up to be.

The schools have broken up and the summer holidays are here. For many it’s a time for the family to unwind and spend quality time together however, for some families holidays aren’t the fun they’re cracked up to be.

Recent research suggests that around 65% of parents think going on holiday with their children is more stressful than being at work (quite a sobering thought). Added to this, family disagreements and conflict during the holidays can also escalate to the point where nearly 20% of parents end the school holidays contemplating divorce or separation. But do the holidays need to be this stressful?

Unfortunately, for some families, the dream family holiday can be more of a living nightmare. The pressures of juggling work, looking after the kids and/or having finances stretched by the annual family holiday can exacerbate conflict and disagreements.

For parents who have to work, escalating childcare costs can lead to frayed finances and equally frayed tempers. With recent estimates suggesting that the summer holidays cost UK parents up to £8.6bn every year on childcare and entertainment for the kids, it’s no wonder that families feel the pressure. These added stresses can then place unbearable weight on relationships that are already strained, leading to some people making the decision to separate.

So, if you’re dreading the coming weeks, here are some of our top tips for keeping costs down, kids occupied and tempers calm.

5 tips for a less stressful summer holiday

1. Look for cheap or free activities to do with the kids.

School holidays can become very expensive very quickly. Discount offers for museums or parks are great way to see attractions for less, and for younger children fun craft activities or cooking at home can be a cheap way to pass time for the financially-savvy family.

Websites like Wowcher or Groupon often have money-saving deals to family attractions and MoneySavingExpert has lots of tips on helping family budgets go further.

2. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to entertain the children all of the time.

Trying to occupy every spare moment of your children’s time on holidays can be exhausting, particularly if the bulk of the childcare falls to one parent due to work arrangements.

Children are resourceful and imaginative – encourage this by giving them time to make up their own games and provide them with activities to entertain themselves. This will give you some time to recoup.

3. The art of the compromise.

Different people will have different ideas about what makes a great holiday, which means, for most families, that compromise is essential. Don’t turn the holiday into a battle before it’s even started.

4. Talk it over and plan.

Before the holiday, discuss with your partner your expectations and what you want to get out of it. Un-met expectations are a recipe for holiday tension – taking the time to talk it over and plan the holiday can help to resolve this before it becomes a problem.

5. Seek help.

If all else fails and your family holiday doesn’t work out as planned, seek professional help. Asking your partner to see a relationship or family counsellor before making the life-changing decision to separate is a constructive first step.

Tips for separated parents

If you’re a separated parent, holidays can be especially tricky to manage. Here are some additional tips on managing holiday arrangements:

1. Agree holiday arrangements in advance:

Make sure you and the child’s other parent have discussed arrangements for the holidays ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings, disappointment or conflict – and don’t book any holidays until you have done this.

2. Don’t try to out-do one another:

Stretching two homes budgets on a competitive holiday war won’t help anyone, children can feel guilty – and may resent you if they feel that they are having a very special holiday when they know their other parent can’t afford to do the same

3. In case of emergencies:

Always provide the children’s other parent with details of where the children will be with you on holiday and with contact details in case of any emergencies

4. Keep in touch while you’re away:

Agree how the children will keep in touch with their other parent whilst they are away – and encourage them to stick to this.

5. Travelling abroad:

If you are thinking about taking your children abroad, make sure you agree this with the children’s other parent - ahead of time. Don’t book flights and hotels on the assumption that the other parent won’t mind, get the arrangements agreed first.

We can’t guarantee that these tips will make for a totally conflict-free family holiday, but they certainly should help.

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