School holidays can be hard. They’re hard for some parents who don’t share the care of their children and they can be hard for co-parenting families, although for very different reasons.
If you are sharing the school holidays with your ex-spouse, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but please focus on your children and how great it is for them to be able to spend holiday time with each of their parents. It might be that they get two holidays away, or it might be that they spend a significant amount of time in activities you would prefer they didn’t. Whether it’s too many video games or hours in vacation care, the holiday time they spend with their other parent is valuable – regardless of whether you approve of the way it is spent.
It’s not just valuable for your children. It’s also valuable for you, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Going without seeing your children for large block periods, and maybe even without talking to them, is very challenging. People will tell you to enjoy the ‘me’ time; make the most of the ‘free’ time to pursue hobbies or extra hours at work. At the end of the day, not knowing what is happening in the daily life of your child is hard. You might even be told you need to learn to ‘let go’.
You know what I say? Do whatever you need to do to get through. Now, I’m not condoning illegal activity or anything that creates an unhealthy or harmful environment. But if working 80 hours the week your children are with their other parent is how you cope, then do it. If you need to spend every night at the movies so you’re not at home alone for multiple hours, do it. If you’ve repartnered, spend the week at their place rather than your empty house. If you have the time and money, pick a destination you’ve always wanted to visit and go – trek the Great Wall of China; lie on a beach in Fiji; ski the slopes of New Zealand.
Do whatever you need to do to get through. You may be criticised, and you may even feel guilty that you’re doing something that could have been shared with your children. There’s no reason you can’t take your children next holiday’s. You’ll know all the great places to eat, all the best slopes, and have the experience of knowing the route, guides, and concierge!
When it comes to the scheduled times you can talk to your children – be upbeat and excited to talk to them; tell them you love them; engage them in conversation about the things they’ve been doing – even if you don’t approve. If it’s something they know you wouldn’t like, don’t let them feel guilty – remind them that there are different rules in your house and what happens with their other parent is up to that parent. Let them know it’s okay that they’re having fun! My ebook gives some great suggestions about how to talk to your children on the phone – whether they’re toddlers or teens. It’s available for free for a limited time so download it today!
I’ll leave you with this one thought – even if you’re sad and missing your children terribly, try to do at least one thing every day that is part of your normal life. It may be cooking dinner, going for a walk, or getting the housework done. If you don’t want to eat the meal, freeze it for a backup meal on a night you’re too busy. If your house is clean and tidy, do the left over ironing, sort through the toys and send a pile to Lifeline or have a garage sale. If you need to spend the time in bed – that’s okay too. Just make sure you go for a least one walk each day and let the sun shine on your face, the rain soak you through or the wind chill your bones and be grateful for the things you DO have. Be grateful for your beautiful children, your warm bed, and your clean clothes. It can be difficult to be grateful when you’re sad or lonely or missing your children and the life you thought you would have. Just find one thing, each day, and you WILL get through. Your children will be home before you know it, and you’ll be thankful for those frozen dinners, clean shirts, and warm hugs.
Most of all, enjoy the time you DO have with your children, even if it’s only weekends. Be present in their life, with your time. It’s not about what you can buy them or where you can take them. It’s about talking and playing and cooking and eating and reading. It’s about you … and them … together, interacting and being truly present. Turn off your phone, turn off the tv. Go outside and kick a ball, make a puppet, bake a cake and prepare dinner together. Visit friends and family, the Science Centre, a new park on the other side of town. Have adventures in your backyard and find new hiding places in the wardrobe. Be together, be grateful and make the most of the time you DO have.
Brisbane is COLD right now – warm yourself with cuddles. 🙂
** If you feel you’re not coping, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for someone to talk to or see your Doctor.