Families come in all shapes and sizes these days and holiday time can mean organising trips with a mixture of children from different relationships, new partners, step parents and many variations. There are many guides and articles online designed to help the parent who has been left behind; with guidance on what do to fill their time and cope without their children as well as not show their anger for the ex’s new partner going away with their children.
But this blog is about the parent that is taking the children away with a new partner in tow. Whilst the parent left behind could be envisaging their children having a glorious time with the new step mum or Dad and feeling jealous, there are just as many visualising their child having a dreadful time away with the evil new partner. The truth be known it is probably somewhere in the middle!
When is too soon to take your new partner on holiday with your children?
Once children are familiar with a new partner and a relationship has been established, you will be in a much better place to judge if you think the children would be happy and comfortable with the idea of a holiday together. It is going to depend a lot on the ages of the children and also on how their other parent reacts and behaves about the holiday plans.
A new partner who gets on well with your children is likely to be a fun addition to the experience and also an extra parental support from your point of view as a single parent.
However, if you are a newly separated parent, dashing off on holiday with the kids and bringing a new partner along for the ride could be a very different story. It is important to remember that if your kids are still adjusting after their parents’ separation, they will be feeling vulnerable and confused. If you are in a very new relationship, where the children are not used to seeing their Mum or Dad with someone new, going on a family holiday in the early stages would be a mistake. Holidays with kids can be stressful and everyone would be stuck in close proximity for the duration.
So to answer the question; ‘When is too soon?’ It will be different in every situation but to judge it you need to think from your children’s perspective. You may be madly in love with your new partner, but your children need to build their own relationship with them and that should not be forced upon them in a situation where they can’t get away. They may feel jealous of attention you give to the new partner and feel even more abandoned.
Tips for making the first holiday together a Great Trip
- Travelling with your kids (especially the under 10s) can be stressful, so consider the destination and the travel time when you plan the holiday. A long haul flight and long transfers will start things off on a stress filled and tired note for all involved.
- Make the first holiday, short and sweet so that if it does go a bit wrong, you aren’t stuck somewhere together for 3 weeks wishing you were home. A prolonged period of time stuck with anyone can be intense and from your new partners point of view being thrust into family life whilst off home territory could be enough to send them running for the hills.
- If you can, make sure you have a kids club or babysitting service arranged so that you can get a little alone time with your new partner. After all you don’t want to kill the romance completely, you deserve some ‘you time’ too and your new partner will also be happy about this.
- Be sure to involve everyone including the kids, in the process of planning for the holiday, if everyone has been involved they will be much more likely to be excited about it and keen to go rather than apprehensive.
- Make sure that you have given the other parent plenty of notice about the holiday, and you have spoken to them to make sure they are ok with the fact that your new partner is going along. The last thing you want to have to encounter is an angry ex-partner who may feel that they have not been consulted about plans with their own children.
Tips for the new partner whilst on holiday with his or her kids
- Don’t try to take over the discipline of the kids if they get unruly, equally don’t ignore the situation, you need to support the parent in their decisions on how to deal with it.
- Respect the kids’ relationship with their parent and don’t try to come between them by demanding attention and alone time.
- Don’t try to force everyone to do an activity on the holiday that really is all about you, the children will not take kindly to being forced to walk up a deserted hill to a monument just because you want to. Try to include everyone in the decisions so that everyone feels heard. But if you really want to see that monument and no one else does, go by yourself and give your partner time with the kids, this is just as important.
- Don’t get upset if the children refer to their other parent by saying things like: ‘When we are on holiday with Dad, we usually do….’ It is only natural for children to want to talk about their other parent and memories that they have with them. It is not a deliberate dig at you, you need to remain positive about any mentions of the other parent.
- Be natural and be yourself – don’t try to be a super hero replacement parent that is determined to give them a better holiday than their other parent would. Children aren’t daft and they will pick up on this kind of behaviour.
On behalf of all of us here at Progressive Mediation, we hope you have a happy and successful first holiday with your children and new partner! Just remember that nothing will always be 100% perfect and problems or arguments may arise, but it’s how you deal with these situations that will matter the most. Always put the children first – happy children = happy holiday!