I have just returned from a very relaxing holiday in the Algarve. Apart from the usual cultural trips and catching up on those books that I have been wanting to read but never get the time to, one of the fascinating games I often play on holiday is people watching. I look at my fellow tourists and holidaymakers and “invent” back stories for them. As a Family Lawyer, these can often be quite colourful, probably far more colourful than their real lives! I suspect that most of us assume that the families around us are big happy families and are all having a great time on holiday. Holidays though can be a time of tension (instructions from new clients often increase in early September) and going away with step-families can be fraught with difficulties. What can often be complex relationships are strained by the expectations that holidays bring and by the additional time that everybody is “forced” to spend together - and it isn’t just the adults that can find it challenging. Step-siblings may have to share rooms and tensions can arise as a result. Step sibling rivalry can be far more intense than the usual sibling sort.
If you are going away with step children try and make sure that you get time with your own children and give them the one-to-one attention that they are probably craving. Set aside a specific morning afternoon or even day in the holiday when you were going to your own thing with your own child/children. This gives both sides of the stepfamily some time apart. Make sure that you do activities that everyone can enjoy and participate in equally. Don’t force a child or stepchild to do something they are reluctant to do. Remember that your respective experiences of holidays in the past may have been quite different and respect each other’s “holiday traditions”. It can also be a time though of making new traditions and sharing new experiences.
However, step families can also bond on holiday. This was brought home to me when we got friendly with another couple and started talking about our own past histories. The couple were very surprised that my party comprised of myself, my second wife and our respective daughters. They commented that we seemed very well “gelled” together and they had assumed that we had been together for very many years. A very nice compliment for the four of us I thought…..
Written by Stephen Root of Berwins Solicitors.