Depending on the age of your kids holidays can mean a stressful time is approaching. Kindergartens work similar hours and do not close for holidays, but school do!
There are things you can do to reduce the stress, and increase the fun!
FIRSTLY look to use your support networks. If you are going to be juggling work, and child care, then others are too. Take it in turns to look after each other’s kids. Sometimes more kids equals less work, especially if the weather is good enough to send them outside, even if it’s not, put up a tent and see how they get on! Holiday programmes can be great, but they cost money! If you can get the time off then cheap and cheerful can be just as successful.
SECONDLY having something planned is important.
There will be free things on offer at local shopping centres, stores and libraries, these are often advertised in local papers, or on local websites and notice boards. We have found a number of free holiday activities this way, which then led to more enjoyment than we all expected. A trip to Toy World, led to the creation of a winning Lego model and a new play set. A trip to a local nature reserve led to a scavenger hunt and bird feeding opportunity.
As mentioned in the making memorable memories article anticipation is all important in helping create stronger memories and it can also help you to move on through the tougher days and look forward to a better one. To gain your child’s imagination get them involved in the planning of the break, work on your advert! Keep on dropping hints; let them know how excited you are; find out from them what they are looking forward to most in the holidays.
Kids do not need to have back to back activities or an overly structured day, but they may need some motivation. Even if you only have one thing to focus on it can help keep up the motivation and cooperation. Sometimes all that is needed is a change in scenery. Once you are at your new destination just let them go and see what happens!
Some ideas to get you started!
Set up parkour challenges at the local park
Go for a picnic
Go for a drive and get lost, or visit somewhere local as a tourist
Visit the local river or lake
Pitch a tent
Collect seashells, stones, leaves, twigs etc. and make a picture with them
Go on a colour walk – try and spot things of different colours of the rainbow
Make and hide some secret stones
Try and make a fire (in a safe and controlled space!)
Find an insect in the garden and draw it
Visit the local library
Bake cookies or make a desert
Create a meter long bridge out of newspapers and cardboard which can hold the most books
Read a book before watching the film
Have dress up challenges
Do a life laundry and work out what you don’t need anymore
Get out the board or card games
Have a doodle challenge
THIRDLY put in place some guidance.
If you are worried about the amount of time they are likely to spend on their phones or screens, then let them know when these are an option, so they can plan their day around this restriction. Remember you are always looking for balance, screens are not all bad, but be aware that during breaks there can be a lot of pressure via social media, to be seen to be doing 'fun' stuff. Having a break from social media until after the holidays can release this burden to 'prove' yourselves. Encourage your children to arrange to meet up with their mates, in person, rather than online. This way they can be 'bored' together, which may lead to more fun than they thought!
Being bored is an important part of the break. Your kids have been attending school and trying to cope with their peers, lessons, family, cores and other responsibilities, and not doing anything is an important option. When I was a University student I worked for a children’s holiday company which offered week long breaks during the summer. You would get kids who travelled from one to the next each week, they never got a day off, and they were tired. I used to feel sorry for them, all they wanted was to just chill for a bit, spend some time with their folks, rather than be forced into ‘fun’ activities from dawn till dusk.
You might not know but we all live in two worlds. The ‘IF’ world, and the ‘IS’ world. It is really important that our kids have time to spend in both these worlds. Young children can pretend to be aeroplanes in the, ‘IF’ I was an aeroplane world, but still take a biscuit off you when offered in the, ‘IS’ world. They can blur the two worlds, the real and imaginary, without having to stop one to let in the other. Providing your young child with time to role play can be a real eye opener.
Adults and children 12 plus tend to suffer from stage fright. Feelings of being judged, fake or stupid can creep in, leading to a need for more role clarification, ‘am I an aeroplane, or am I out of role and having a biscuit?’
The IF world is a powerful place, it can allow ideas to grow and changes how you think about things. Children who want to be Pop stars need to practice singing. They may not be there yet in the ‘IS’ world, but if in the ‘IF’ world they are, this keeps them going, gives them the energy to keep on practicing, keep on striving. Children, who are not given time for unstructured play, lose this all important skill, the skill of make-believe, of living in a way which may not be real yet, but has the potential to be in the future.
Interestingly one of the biggest challenges I often had when going out and about during the holidays, was my own boredom level. The kids may have been playing quite happily at the park, but I would start thinking of all the things I needed to do at home. Prepare tea, hang out the washing, plan an activity for tomorrow… All these things made it much harder for me to be there, in the moment with my kids. I would then call them in, drag them home and then go do my stuff, while they lost all their energy and went back to their default of bored, bored, bored!
So give yourself a break too. Be aware of your internal to do list, remember that looking after kids is a full life job! The housework can take a back foot, or become the next family activity!
Being aware of your own mental health is important, when I find myself wanting to keep people out; I have learnt that it is the time I need to ask them in. Parenting as a journey is not all sweetness and light, but many others have made the journey, and are alive to tell the tale, listen to them, and gain the hope and support you need. You will survive the holidays and your children will turn out all right in the end.
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All the very best
Ruth Taylor www.ruthtaylor.net