What did you do with the kids these school holidays?
Organise a plethora of play dates? Trips to the zoo and/or museum? Allowed hours of unprecendented time on TV/DVD/DS or other normally naughty activities?
Me? I took my kids to a workshop for kids from separated families. Because I am all kinds of awesome when it comes to school holiday activities!
It was particularly difficult, as the first week, my kids holidayed on Bribie Island with my Ex and his partner and her family. How could I possibly hope to compete with that?
However, the course had been highly recommended to us by the childrens' school psychologist as well as my own shrink, and it just happened to be held during "my" week. And so it was that we put the trips to Dreamworld and the museum to one side, and headed into the city each morning for the course.
All my fears that the kids would resent the holiday program disappeared on day one, when they headed off happily with the other kids and their carers, and played pirates and shipwrecks. (You've got to love the shipwreck analogy of a broken marriage, don't you?)
For the first time they were able to talk to other adults and most importantly kids about the positives and negatives of their parents' break-up. (Sadly in our case it was mostly negatives ... but at least they got it out of their systems). For the first time, they were able to talk to kids who understood exactly what they were going through. (Most of their school buddies and family are all from "intact" families).
For the first time, Mr 9, who has Aspergers, was able to put a name to some of his feelings and to cry for everything he had lost. And he did this with other kids, including older boys. There was some serious male bonding going on.
Miss 7 also felt comforted, as older girls in the group, took her under their 'wings' and made her feel safe.
Both H. and C. wanted the course to continue forever, but of course, life isn't like that, and this week they had to go back to school.
As for me - I have counselling to do with my own grief and loss, and didn't learn anything new. However, it was comforting to know that the kids were able to talk to someone other than me about their loss ... and to be accepted by their peers who understood their feelings. And it was lovely for me, to meet a few other parents, who were as keen as I am to help their kids through this massive change in their lives.
As for my worries, that a week in counselling could not compete with heated pools and Australia Zoo, after the first visit the kids wanted to go back every day. And at the week's end, there were tears, because they wanted to continue. It doesn't get much better than that!
And you know what? They actually found a few good things have resulted from our separation. The Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny always come twice, and apparently Santa will too!
The program also reinforced the knowledge that although their Dad and I have broken up, we still love them very much, and we will always be there for them.
When I eventually find the cable for my camera to connect to the computer, I'll have a few photos to share, but in the meantime: What are your hints to help kids deal with break-ups in the family?
If you go:
Children First, offered by Centacare Catholic Family and Community Services has helped at least 700 children and their families through the changes that occur in everyday family living when parents separate and divorce.
For details go to http://www.centacarebrisbane.net.au/