My children’s older step siblings caring for them

  • Posted on

Dear Marcie

My ex-husband has re-married and takes our two children who are 8 and 10 on holiday in the summer with his new wife and her three children who are 12, 14 and 16.  For the first two years my two children really enjoyed the holiday but this year they have returned (from Cyprus) telling me that their dad and his new wife left them alone for lots of the time with their older step siblings, including late into the evening when they had the run of the resort with no adults keeping an eye on them.  My two felt scared and that they did not have any time with their dad.  Our relationship has been reasonable since the divorce and I don’t want to go back to the acrimony we have had in the past but I also don’t want to let my kids down.  I feel I need to speak up for them.  How can I best open this conversation so that it does not suddenly turn into a fight and so my ex does not get defensive of his new family and their parenting style?


Sarah, Fulham

Dear Sarah

Thanks for writing in. It's hard isn't it, because sometimes we want to give children independence and responsibility, and sometimes we do it a bit too soon. If your children are feeling unsafe, then it's absolutely essential that you do speak to their dad about it. Start by focussing on what has gone well. And give him a bit of warning that you need to say something difficult. Sometimes, by saying that you don't want to rock the boat, and you don't want to get involved in his parenting can be helpful to let him know you're not trying to control him. Then moving into the children's feelings (rather than yours) and asking him the question about how to deal with it differently next time. So it could sound something like this:

"Can we have a quick chat about the kids and something they are worried about?

They loved coming on holiday with you, they really look forward to the time they spend with you, i think it makes them so happy. 

They had something they wanted to talk to you about but didn't quite know how, so I said i would help.

When you guys were all on holiday in the summer, they really wanted a bit more daddy time then they said they had. And they had fun with the other kids, but they said they felt a bit scared because the others are older and go off an their own, but our two are probably still a bit young to do that. I wouldn't mention it, except they're worried it might happen again, and I know you adore them and want to look after them. So I thought I should tell you, so you have all the information."

It won't be perfect, people are very quick to feel judged or criticized, but it should help to de-escalate any conflict.

Take Care


    Get in touch

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.