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School Holidays part Two

Rachel Fearnley
School Holidays part Two

Hello, In my blog last week I started to think about the long school holidays that children in the UK have each summer. My first blog was an assortment of personal reflections of how I remember the summer holidays from the 60s and 70s. In this post I am going to fast-forward to now and start to think about how children whose parents have a life-limiting illness might be feeling. For many children, the six weeks holiday represents a time with their family doing things together, possibly even going away on holiday. I wonder how children who are living with a parent who has a life-limiting illness feel about this. Is there some anxiety that because of the illness the forthcoming holiday is going to be very different from previous ones? Are there going to be limited opportunities to do the same things as before. I know from my research that one of the many issues that children and young people say can be difficult is the transition from doing ‘normal’ family stuff to doing things centred around the illness. I heard stories of how the illness dominates family life – so for example if the parent has a health related appointment then the chance of doing something as a family is limited. Equally much is dependent on how the parent is feeling so if they are additionally ill then again the opportunity to do something special is likely to be restricted. Children living in families where there is a life-limiting illness will be well aware of these constraints, so when they hear their friends talking about their plans for the holidays, I wonder how they feel. Equally how must they feel when their teacher is talking with their class group about the forthcoming holidays? This is more likely to be the case in infant and junior schools where there is often lots of talk and activities based around the up and coming holidays. Does the knowledge that they are not going to be able to join in the conversations and share their plans have the capacity to make them feel uncomfortable? Staying with a friend while your mum or dad goes to hospital for treatment is not likely to be a good story when you are seven and are in circle time. In the same light, older children who attend comprehensive schools are also likely to feel uncomfortable sharing with their friends that they will be taking on additional caring roles during the holidays and will not be doing the things their peers are doing. These changes and transitions from ‘normal’ family life can be hard for children to bear. Once again they are being seen as being different, and as we know children do not generally like to be seen to be different. So the school holidays can present different challenges for children whose parents have a life-limiting illness. They can represent a ‘different normal’ and in so doing highlight that family life has changed since the arrival of the illness. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about the relationship between school holidays and parental illness.

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