Summer holidays for expatriate children of divorced and separated families
Expatriate families generally organise their holidays around returning to their country of origin for a few weeks or discovering the host country or region of residence. Whatever the choice, the main words are organisation/planning and adaptation/flexibility.
And what about divorced expatriate families?
How does it work for separated families, sometimes thousands of miles apart?
- Relationship with time:
For separated/divorced families, most decisions concerning the children are taken upstream and at the time of the divorce: who will have which month and which year? Who pays for what, when and how? And it’s often difficult to get a degree of flexibility from the parent-couple once the divorce has been signed. It is why it’s essential to have the most elaborate co-parenting agreement possible, the ‘contract’ in which everything has been provided for, even what hasn’t!
A last-minute unforeseen event can quickly upset the sometimes precarious balance of the parents’ agreement: delayed or cancelled flights encroaching on the time of the distant parent and vice versa; cancellation, illness can quickly be perceived as a severe event, creating tension between the parents (he or she is doing it on purpose), whereas even if this is independent of each of them, it can happen to anyone.
These ups and downs of globetrotting life are upsetting moments that expatriate families accept willy-nilly, but which take on a different dimension for divorced expatriate families. The relationship is different when time with your child is limited; when you haven’t seen your 10-year-old child for 3 months, every minute that brings you closer to the reunion counts.
Expatriate families generally organise their holidays around returning to their country of origin for a few weeks or discovering the host country or region of residence.
Whatever the choice, the watchwords are organisation/planning and adaptation/flexibility.
And what about divorced expatriate families?
These ups and downs of globetrotting life are upsetting moments that expatriate families accept willy-nilly, but which take on a different dimension for divorced expatriate families. The relationship with time is different when time with your child is limited; when you haven’t seen your 10-year-old child for 3 months, every minute that brings you closer to the reunion counts.
- Financial differences:
Generally, following a divorce, a woman loses 19 to 22% of her standard of living. In expatriate families, most partner spouses are women, so when a separation occurs, the female spouses find themselves in a more precarious situation. They often must return to their country of origin to get back to work, look for a job and obtain social support, which can take months.
If they are in the situation of being the estranged spouse, then holidays can be a source of additional stress, as they may not have the means to offer holidays to their children, who usually still live abroad and, therefore, in a better financial surrounding.
Planning and organising a holiday when you don’t have the financial means can be an obstacle. The result can be a disappointment on both sides.
The other parameter is everyone’s expectations during the holiday.
For the estranged parent, the holidays are a time to reunite after months without seeing each other. The holiday must therefore meet several expectations on the part of the children and the distant parent:
– emotional reconciliation
– Re-establishment of certain educational principles specific to each parent (politeness, relationship with money, outings, young love, etc.).
– Letting go
– Reconnecting with and rediscovering children who are growing up in the absence of a distant parent, and who are becoming increasingly independent.
Changes that can intimidate and upset the estranged parent. And a reunion with mixed feelings for the children, who have become accustomed to living in one way with the other parent, and who are also often in a different cultural context.
These are all issues that can be a source of conflict.
Here are a few tips to help you have a good holiday
The distant parent needs to adapt. But that’s not necessarily their state of mind: parents who ‘miss the daily grind’ want to make the most of their time with their children. Sometimes they may feel that they no longer recognise their children. A thawing strategy can be put in place.
Pitfalls to avoid: trying to do too much, organising ten thousand outings to compensate for the absence of everyday life, offering too much money, and being too permissive when it comes to outings with young teenagers. Another pitfall to avoid is trying to educate too much and ending up with a child who doesn’t understand the new rules. Find the best balance and have realistic expectations.
Respecting the child’s needs and interests is essential, especially as the child may have other desires: going to a summer camp, sports camp or a trip with friends or other family members. In this case, you listen to their wishes and adjust according to each parent’s need for family time, especially as the children may have half-siblings.
For the distant parent, the holidays are always too short, and the end of the holidays, which also means the return to the other country, is often painful.
For the other parent, the end of the holidays can be synonymous with a return to “the routine” and the “bad role” of everyday life.
Being accompanied by a divorce coach helps families to find the resources they need (communication, negotiation, proposals for solutions and how to implement them) to prepare for the holidays and manage their emotions as best they can on departure and return.
Rebuilding a peaceful family balance is challenging after the emotional roller-coaster of the summer holidays.