Schools out: the rising ‘fear culture’ involving estranged parents – and how to diffuse it

By Kate Banerjee, head of the Children Department

In the countdown to schools breaking up, Jones Myers is witnessing heightened anxieties from divorced parents over their ex-partner taking their children on summer holidays.

In a climate where security and safety concerns are unprecedented, what is understandably an already a tense time for divorcees can be further exacerbated when their ex-partner flies off with their son or daughter.

Quite apart from missing the children and coping with their absence, these anxieties are sparking a ‘fear culture’ which is totally unrelated to worries that their offspring will be abducted or harmed.

Instead, it’s a feeling of helplessness at not being there in person to ensure they are in an appropriate country with suitable accommodation – and not knowing that they won’t visit places the parent left behind wouldn’t go to – especially when they will be thousands of miles away for a period of two or more weeks.

Much of the tension emanates from different parenting styles that can cause conflict in any partnership – i.e. one parent is too laid-back in the other’s eyes, while another is considered too tense and over anxious.

We recommend the following steps which take your ex-partner’s feelings into consideration and can go a long way to prevent bitter disagreements and arguments:

  1. If you are taking the children away for longer than a month or during a period when your ex would normally have parental contact, you must obtain permission from your ex-partner. It would also be considerate to ask for consent for shorter trips that do not affect shared arrangements as this may encourage future co-operation.
  2. As both parents usually hold legal Parental Responsibility, inform your former spouse of your travel plans and accommodation arrangements. This will comfort them and enable them to contact you in an emergency.
  3. It is always a good idea for parents to plan holidays face-to-face if possible. This collaborative and non-confrontational approach that we always recommend enables practicalities and issues such as allergies to be sorted out, avoids diary clashes – and lets children schedule their social lives.
  4. Reassure the parent who is left behind. Stay in touch to let them know how things are going and encourage your children (depending upon their age) to communicate regularly with them by text, email, Skype or FaceTime.
  5. As in other areas of life, treating your ex-partner as you would like to be treated can pay dividends for your long-term relationship – especially if you are waiting for news while they are on holiday with your children.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on children and divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce

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