As a working mother of 3 children with behaviour challenges, lockdown nearly broke Shania. Taking on the role of sole earner when her husband lost his job, and makeshift teacher to her kids during the various lockdowns, added a financial and emotional pressure to her already stressful and busy life. Then they lost a family member to Covid, deepening the anxiety and building pressures.
Shania lives in the Midlands with her husband and 3 boys aged 15, 8 and 3. All three boys have developmental challenges which can affect how they interact with the world, and this has impacted Shania’s mental health.
Before Covid, Shania was working within the NHS. Working shifts, including nights, meant a bit of a juggling act, but when Covid struck, Shania had to cut her hours at the hospital to be around to support the children whilst they were homeschooling.
As was the case for many families during the last 18 months, her husband lost his job. This combined with Shania’s reduced working hours meant the family took a huge financial hit, finding it hard to keep up with the mortgage.
And a difficult situation was made worse when a knee injury and subsequent surgery meant it was tough for her husband to be as hands-on with the children’s care.
Then the family had to cope with the grief of losing a close family member to Covid, shouldering the associated loss, sadness and anxiety and unable to have the opportunity to say goodbye.
Shania recalled, “I had so much going on. I used to get calls home from school to ask why my eldest wasn’t participating in his school work. It takes time and effort to get them to do any work. That plus the pressures of work; we really felt the strain.
I was always proud that I was a professional and helping families and I was adamant that I could do it all by myself, but I reached a point of crisis during the pandemic.
The family’s support worker suggested a break away, a chance to take a breath and step back. This wasn’t something that Shania and her husband had given any thought to, but the application was made to Family Holiday Charity and a short break to Devon was arranged.
Shania remembers that their last holiday was many years ago:
“We just stopped going on holiday. It’s a big expense and the kids didn’t find new environments easy.”
But as the break drew closer, the whole family were looking forward to it and they made plans for different things to do whilst they were away. Travelling in September 2021, out of season, was perfect for their family; a less crowded environment being better for the children and Shania felt hopeful for the break.
The family stayed for 3 nights at Devon Cliffs in a comfortable and homely caravan. As they find restaurants stressful with the children, it meant that they could enjoy takeaways or cooking for themselves at the caravan, and this worked really well for them.
Blessed with good weather, the family tried various activities, like a trip to the beach, the animal farm next door and the entertainment on-site plus a specially-planned trip to a nearby waterpark, but the different and new environments were sometimes quite a challenge for the boys.
The family found joy in spending quality time together, playing games and going for walks. Shania and her husband took turns to spend time with the 3 boys and Shania recalls it was like they were getting to know one another again.
Shania found that her and her teenage son grew much closer whilst away. They would walk along the coast together, to a spot where he was able to get a signal for his phone so he could keep in touch with his friends.
Looking back on their time away, Shania feels it has really helped her mentally and the trip gave her an opportunity to relax and enjoy a break from the norm.
As someone who lives with regular panic attacks, she described feeling really laid back and relaxed after returning from Devon and found that whilst away she didn’t get stressed like she might at home, even during challenging situations.
“I miss that we haven’t been on holiday for so long. It was a really comforting caravan, really relaxing and it was all about family time.”
She believes they will all have lasting memories of their time away and they often talk about their favourite bits from the trip. Their 8-year-old talks about their adventures at the waterpark every day!