During the summer holidays, we try to arrange activities for our children to help keep them entertained, to allow us to spend time together as a family and to relax after a busy year at work and school. While it’s great to be able to spend more time together as a family, this in itself can be quite stressful as it can be difficult for parents who watch all their routines ‘go out the window’. Suddenly, simple daily tasks such as getting themselves dressed in the morning or getting to bed in the evening starts taking children twice as long as it normally would during term-time.
Nadim – our resident ‘Strict’ parent – shares: “Being a parent who once had quite a rigid and strict parenting style, I used to see the summer holidays as a chance to move away from my role of strict parent and get to enjoy having fun and relaxing with my family for a change. However, my kids would soon start to ‘mis’behave, and I would feel that they were being ungrateful and taking advantage of my more relaxed attitude. So I would switch from being happy to being cross with them, and the situation would escalate.
In my eyes, they were failing to see how hard we had worked to arrange all these fun things for them to do during the holidays, and I was left feeling that my children were ungrateful and unappreciative. However, as I quickly discovered, oscillating in this way leaves children feeling confused as to what’s expected of them, and only serves to create a negative atmosphere that can end up spoiling the holidays for everyone.
Carole – our resident ‘All-heart’ parent – says: This is actually a great opportunity to build a connection with our children and help strengthen the bond of the family unit. So here are some simple and highly effective tools that will help you remove stressors, prevent conflict and ensure that family life runs as smoothly as possible throughout the summer holidays.”
- Limited Choices
It can be all too easy for parents to fall into the trap of giving ‘open choices’ during the summer holidays, and without the routine that school helps to provide, we can soon find ourselves losing control of any sense of order in the household and falling into ‘order and command” mode..
To prevent oscillating in this way, you can offer your children limited choices to help give them a sense of control over the situation. The key is to ensure that you give children this sense of control, but within boundaries that you are happy with. So instead of asking an open question such as, “Where would you like to go today?” try, “Would you like to go to the park or the museum?” The children will love being involved in the decision-making process and you’ll be happy whatever the outcome as you’re the one who’s given the choices, so it’s win-win all round!
- ‘I’ Statements
During the holidays, as we do a lot of things that should please our kids, it’s easy to fall into nagging and making empty threats, for example: “If you’re not ready in 10 minutes, I won’t be taking you to the water park”. But instead of this threat, you can use something more positive and more effective, which we call an ‘I’ Statements, for eg.: “I take children to the water park who are ready to go in ten minutes.” The most important thing is that you are able to enforce the statement you have made and that you follow through if need be. So however difficult it may be to do at first, if your child is not ready in ten minutes then stay true to your word and cancel the trip to the water park, even if you’ve already paid! It may seem harsh, but actually you are showing your children that when you say something, you mean it. Ultimately, this will make your life so much easier in the long-term.
- One-on-One Time
It’s easy to think that spending on-on-one time with each child isn’t necessary when you’re spending so much time together as a family, but we mustn’t forget that children have individual needs that require the full and focused attention of their parent/s. This is especially applicable if you have more than one child however, only children will benefit just as much from having the undivided attention of their parent. Try to make it ‘special’ by naming it as being special time between the two of you. It doesn’t really matter what you do during this special one-on-one time, but remember to offer limited choices regarding the activities that you’re suggesting.
- Active Listening
During one-on-one time that you spend with your child, ensure that you really listen to what they are saying and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. You can help with this by rephrasing what they just shared, attempting to name whatever emotion they may be experiencing and more importantly don’t try to fix the issue immediately. If compelled to do so, ask them if they’d like you to give them ideas of what they could do and then suggest several alternatives so your child feels that they have a choice (see tool Generating Solutions).
- Family Meetings
Most parents recognise that family meetings can be very beneficial, however, during term-time it’s something that many families understandably struggle to make time for. The summer holidays are a great opportunity to redress this balance and spend some time ensuring that all family members are happy and that everyone’s needs are being met. You can also use it to clarify what the household rules are during the holidays, so that everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them. These can be done once a week ideally.
- Taking Good Care of Yourself
And last but not least, the one thing that we often forget to do as parents is take care of ourselves, and this can be especially true during the holidays. Depending on your parenting style, you may have organised so many activities because you want your children to have as much fun as possible, that you end up burning yourself out trying to fit them all in! Remember, happy parents make the best parents of all, so take some time out just for yourself. It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long it’s something that you find enjoyable and that helps you to relax and unwind. If you take better care of yourself then you’ll be able to have more fun with your partner and your children, and after all, isn’t that what the holidays are for?