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Surviving summer well with children

Summer is here and the end of school will arrive shortly. Keeping your children occupied is arguably the most difficult part of the summer. This is especially so if you are a survivor of domestic abuse and/or are separated or divorced, whether you need to share the parenting with your ex or have the children all on your own for the whole summer.

Below are some tips that may help you through!

1. Plan in advance and keep your boundaries

If you need to share parenting over the summer, continue with parallel parenting with your ex when planning your summer schedule with the children. Our Survivors' Handbook has an excellent chapter on parallel parenting.

So this means being organised - plan in advance. Through email, communicate with your ex how the summer will look for your children - where they will stay, for how long, and what they will do at each parent’s house. If both parents work, then the earlier you can plan the better.

2. Communicate as much as is possible

Holidays and any summer activities or camps the children may engage in will need to be coordinated together. Try to get some input from your children. Consider how they might prefer their summer schedule and what they may want to do - this will be very different for younger or older children and teenagers.

If reasonable, share your vacation plan details with your ex early on to ensure you get the weeks that you want. Proactively share your accommodation and transport details with the other parents to keep them informed and create the expectation that they should share their plans and details with you.

It is not unusual for a domestic abuser to be difficult, uncommunicative and likely to try to sabotage your plans - especially if there has been contentious divorce court proceedings. You will need support from family and friends around you as you proceed throughout the summer. It is also possible that you may need to get legal advice or intervention to ensure the summer progresses relatively smoothly.

It might be the first summer that your children are away from you for an extended period of time and this can cause some anxiety for all of you. If the children are young, you may want to facilitate communication (via text, phone call, FaceTime etc) with them when they are away with the other parent and you can offer the same in return.

3. Give each other time

Teenagers will likely want to see their own friends or get a part time summer job. This is a great way for them to enlarge their own community and develop supports outside the home.

Try to take advantage of the time when you don’t have your children to do something for yourself. Plan activities in advance so that you don’t feel bereft when the moment comes. Relax, see friends, watch movies - treat yourself.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself, patient with your children and don’t sweat the small stuff. Your children are more likely to remember your mood than the activities they were involved in. Finally, reach out to a supportive community or group, with children, that you can engage with over the summer for joint activities and support.

Activity ideas

If you have your children for the full summer you might feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities and need to keep your children occupied. Below are a few ideas for activities for younger and even older children. Creating fun experiences doesn’t have to be expensive.

- Visit the grandparents or family members

- Set up a tent in the backyard - maybe even camp out on a warm night!

- Petting zoos

- Go to the beach

- Take a trip to your local library

- Fly a kite

- Visit an outdoor swimming pool

- Run in the sprinkler

- Go for a walk in a nearby park

- Berry picking

- Have a picnic in your local park or in your garden

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We've developed this practical guide for survivors of domestic abuse. Request a free copy here.

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