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Carl’s story: How we tackle our communication family monsters

22 August 2019

As part of our Family Monsters campaign, we’ve been discussing some of the challenges families face during the holidays – including finding things to do and resolving any tensions that arise from spending so much time together. Here, father of six, Carl shares what he’s learned about managing his large family over the summer months.

I’m currently studying while my wife is at work, so we’ve swapped roles and I’ve taken on the primary care role for the summer – which has the potential to get quite difficult when I’m looking after all the kids. Like most families we settle into a routine during school terms, and when that routine gets broken it can get overwhelming. 

My wife has an unusual shift pattern at work so we had to set up a schedule to manage it – which has actually been really useful in ensuring we communicate what everyone’s doing – no mean feat when dealing with six kids aged one to eleven! But setting up a properly written timetable allowed us to know what everyone was doing, and has allowed me to plan my time better. 

We’re a member of English Heritage so I’ve planned trips all around to see different castles and places of interest – but no matter what, I’ve ensured that we get out of the house at least once a day, even if it’s just visiting a different local park. 

What I have noticed is that it’s odd seeing how people’s perceptions change when they see me or my wife out with the children. 

Some of our children are from previous relationships and people often talk to me like I’m some kind of super dad for managing all the children, while my wife is often made to feel like she’s irresponsible in some way. Actually, I’m proud of how responsible all the adults involved in our kid’s lives are. 

Having the timetable has also allowed us to ensure that we can coordinate drop-offs with the kids’ mums and dads at times that are good for everyone – although we are lucky that we all live locally and all drive. I think it needn’t be too difficult if everyone’s reasonable and respectful. Communication is the key. 

The holidays are an interesting time for us too, as our eldest is about to start secondary school and we’re discussing her spending more time with friends and how we can support her to do so. 

Mobile phones are often seen as the enemy in the media, but I believe it’s all about how we use them and the limits we set. For me, it means she can contact us if she needs anything, or if plans change from what we’ve agreed. You have to give children a degree of freedom or they’re never going to learn responsibility. 

Sound familiar? If you recognise Carl’s family communication challenges, let us know by sharing your own experiences and solutions on social media using the hashtag #MyFamilyMonsters. For more practical and next-to-no-budget tips and resources, visit the summer holidays area on our Family Monsters website.