Separated dad issues - managing school holiday arrangements - tips and advice - after separation
Many separated dads only see their children infrequently or for short periods of time during the school term but then have longer with them during school holidays.
This can be tricky if you are not used to being together for more than a couple of days at a time. And it becomes particularly complicated if you have work commitments too. Many dads are happy about extra time with their children but also feel a bit lost about what to do with them and about managing things while they are at work. Planning is the key to success but where to start??
As the summer holidays head towards the end think about how this year has been working for you …maybe there is still time to follow some of our tips and advice offered below and if not to start thinking about the next time you are due to have the kids for more than a day or two. Even if you can’t change things on this occasion, be open to hearing your child's feelings, encouraging them to express how they feel about the situation and listening to their ideas. Children need to know you understand when they are disappointed or angry. Hearing and discussing your child's views can help the difficult times go more smoothly.
However tempting don’t try and be ‘Super Dad’ …children often play up when they sense you are trying too hard. Taking bursts of time for yourself will mean you have more energy and patience. Even escaping for a few minutes alone can make a big difference.
Here are some practical tips that can help longer times together go more smoothly:
- Let children help find solutions. Give them the chance to have a say when plans are being made for time with you. Try and model problem solving behaviour (You can find out more about Behaviour Modelling by doing the Getting it Right for Children course.
- Write down all possible solutions (theirs too) and note the pros and cons of each. Children cope better with difficult practical arrangements if they feel they have had some involvement.
- Make sure younger children have other people to spend time with. For example Grandparents or a close family member for whom spending time with your children is a novelty. This can be a real treat and can take the pressure off, providing some variety.
Make sure older children and teenagers can still see their friends on a few occasions – older children need their peers but can feel disloyal about asking to spend time with them when they don’t get much time with you. So encourage them to invite friends over ….it will make for an easier time and is a great way to find out more about an uncommunicative teenagers life.
- Seize the post Olympics spirit and book a few local activities or try out a new sport together – it’s a great bonding experience particularly for dads and sons. It might just be the start of something you can share longer term and provide fun memories for both of you.
- If children will be spending part of the time home alone: Make sure you and they feel comfortable with this. All children are different some are mature enough to spend some time alone from as early as age ten, others may need more supervision until they are older. Some are safe to leave alone but in the company of friends can take advantage and are more prone to break agreed rules and boundaries. So pay attention to your instincts. Ask your child what their concerns are and how these might be addressed. Talk to friends with children of the same age as yours.
- If your children will be spending some time at home alone go through what to do in case of emergencies or times when they might feel scared or unsure of what they should do. Ask them direct questions about how they would cope with various scenarios. Always leave a number where you can be reached and a couple of back-ups. Maybe ask neighbours if they are ok to be called upon in emergencies.
- Create incentives for helping out around the house. Make sure you follow through with what you promise in return. Let them choose which chores to do.
- Set aside time for each child individually so that they have the opportunity to process their feelings and thoughts with you without distractions. Each child needs to feel important and special. Individual time with each child will be good for both of you.
- Help your children write about or draw things they felt good about each day. Often time can pass by so quickly that children forget their accomplishments or what they have enjoyed. Creating short list at the end of each day can start a habit that will build self-esteem at a time when they maybe lacking confidence or feeling insecure.
- Plan something to look forward to. Having some fun time with you, doing something special that doesn’t happen in term time to look forward to, can help children get through the times when you have to take care of other responsibilities or work.