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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
As the long school summer holiday approaches I find myself having more and more frequent conversations with children and young people regarding their holidays with separated parents. Getting two holidays instead of one could be construed as one of the benefits of living in a separated family and for many children it is, however, for some it can be a time of anguish. The event can give their parents another opportunity to be negative about one another, compare and contrast their quality of life and bemoan their life as a single parent.
If, as a single parent you feel yourself going down this road, please do talk to an appropriate adult about how you feel, hopefully you will receive sympathy and understanding. Although often difficult, try not to burden your children with negative views; imagine how difficult it is for a child if they feel they can’t share with Mum how much they are looking forward to a holiday with Dad or if they feel that they can’t tell Dad any of the details of their fabulous holiday with Mum.
I have been working with a young person recently who feels that when he returns to one parent after seeing the other, he has to say something negative about his stay, to the degree that, if necessary, he will make something up just to appease both parents. In his case holidays can pose an even bigger problem for him; he has faced one parent ‘losing’ his passport which has prevented him going on a trip abroad with the other parent. He has a continual struggle finding a way to tell one parent that the other has planned a holiday for him as they don’t speak to each other. They are, in fact, so critical of one another that they immediately pour cold water on any excitement or enthusiasm he might show about the planned holiday and as a consequence he has to subdue any positive emotions and give limited information about his time away with the other parent. Unfortunately these circumstances aren’t unique to this particular family and happen quite frequently in one guise or another.
I can really appreciate that for some parents hearing that their ex partner can afford to take their child or children away to an exotic destination is really difficult, especially if they are struggling financially, it can feel as though salt is being rubbed into an open wound. The situation can invite feelings of guilt and failure and decrease what is probably already low self worth and confidence. These emotions are very hard to manage and might manifest themselves in outpourings of bitterness and negative behaviours.
If you are a parent in this position, feeling that you can’t match the material things that your ex-partner can provide please don’t imagine that your children will love you any less because of this. It’s true, children, especially teenagers can be very materialistic and can place a lot of emphasis on their needs being met in terms of what gifts or treats they receive. But I believe, and the children and young people I work with would confirm this, that their capacity to love both parents goes beyond financial status. Their affection, attachment and love they feel for both parents will not be impaired by how much disposable income they have.
If you would like to confidentially discuss anything raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact me.