Most children with a life-limiting condition are cared for in the family home by their parents, who require professional support to provide this care. Owing to advances in medicine and medical technology these children are living longer and, given the often relentless and all-encompassing nature of caring for children with life-limiting conditions, respite (facilitation of short breaks) is considered central to quality palliative care provision for children and their families. However, there is still ambiguity in exactly what is meant by the term 'respite', what constitutes respite care, whether the services currently provided meet the needs of the child and family, and how respite is best provided. This paper reviews the literature relating to respite as a component of children's palliative care. Themes from the literature are identified and discussed. Challenges for the providers of respite care are identified and suggestions made regarding the future development of responsive and family-focused respite care.