But taking your children away for your first break together can also be exhilarating and liberating. The key to making it a success, according to parenting coach Sue Atkins
, is preparing thoroughly long before it’s time to set off. And this doesn’t just mean packing the right clothes and enough Factor 30 but working on your own confidence, which might well have taken a knock during separation and divorce. Whilst the focus of the holiday should be making sure your children have a great time it’s vital to start with yourself.
“It’s all about the mum!
” says Sue
, author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies, the Amazon best-selling book Parenting Made Easy and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy MP3's and workbooks. “If the mother is constantly banging on about how awful things are and how useless the father is, that will impact on the children. You have to create a new adventure and new traditions whilst celebrating the old ones. You have to focus on something positive and on letting go of the past.”
The trick to achieve this, says Sue
, is to train your ‘confidence muscle’, however well hidden it’s become! “Go back in your memory to something you were successful at,”
she says. “Use your confidence muscle by thinking of a time in the past you made a decision and it worked out well. It’s all about your mind set; if you say it will be scary, it will feel that way.
“It’s a muscle and you have to empower yourself to make small decisions so you feel in charge. For example, if you have never been to a coffee shop on your own make the decision to do it. Buy a newspaper and read it over your coffee so you don’t feel embarrassed. Start small and build up your confidence. Take very small steps often and you will start to notice your confidence muscle coming back. Going through divorce is not linear and the path is different for everyone, which is covered in my six week course in how to divorce confidently and positively.”
Once your own confidence has started to return as you achieve small tasks successfully, it’s time to focus on your children. “On my website I have a one page profile about getting children to say what they are good at which starts to build their confidence straight away,”
. “Ask them before the holiday to think about what’s important to them. For example, they might want to bring a particular teddy bear or a piece of jewellery their dad gave them so that they feel reassured. It might be about bringing a photograph of dad because he can’t come or it could be anything that could make a child feel that the experience is new and exciting.”
The cost of a holiday can also add to your anxieties. Although it’s difficult to resist the urge to compete when your ex and his new partner may be promising your children expensive ski holidays it’s important not to spend more than you can afford. Children are just as happy making sandcastles on a windy British beach as long as they have your attention. So pack those buckets and spades and focus on creating brilliant memories that will last for years!