Whether you keenly anticipate the big school summer holiday or feel increasingly anxious the closer it gets, a little forward thought and planning could help make this year’s the best your family has ever had. Besides this, collectively thinking about your summer in a considerate way can also help every member of the family learn about the wellbeing needs of themselves and others, and how to approach life so that everyone feels heard and gets what they need.
It’s good to talk
Before the holiday begins, it’s a good to have a family chat about the coming weeks to talk about everyone’s holiday wishes and find out what each member of the family would like to get out of it. “This is about communication and really listening to what every member of the family wants and needs,” says coach Jayne Lewis. One person might want lots of time with their friends, another might be craving long days of relaxation at home while another might be keen to go on lots of picnics and bike rides. Don’t assume that everyone wants a busy summer holiday and try to strike a good balance that ensures everyone gets a little of what they want from the holiday, including you.
Planning helps everyone know what’s going on, but it’s important to plan to a level that works for you and your family. As Jayne explains: “For some people, planning for every week and every day allows them to feel relaxed and in control,” she says. “Others hate it when anything is scheduled too much as they feel contained.” Jayne advises thinking about the amount of scheduling that helps you to feel relaxed and in control and where possible to plan to that level. When it comes to what you plan, remember that it’s OK to plan simple pleasures, as mum-of-two and author of Happy Single Mum Sarah Thompson explains. “Make sure there are things in the diary, but they don’t need to be big things like a day at Peppa Pig World or climbing a mountain,” she says. “Often just planning for the children to see their friends is enough to keep everyone happy.”
Jayne agrees. “Don’t think you have to do a big thing like a trip to a theme park or a museum every day” she says. “Planning small things, like playing games or going for a walk together, is just as wonderful.” And those simpler things are often what you all remember most fondly when you look back on your summer together.
Also, don’t forget to schedule in time to buy any new uniform or equipment the children need before the new term starts. Avoid leaving getting these things to the last minute when stocks tend to run low. Also ensure there’s time for the kids to complete any holiday homework. It can also really help with the transition if you all get back to term-time bedtimes and morning alarms a few days ahead of that first day back, so keep this in mind towards the end of the holidays.
We all know that people only tend to post their highlights on social media but it doesn’t stop us from comparing our experiences to others and feeling like we are falling short. “It can feel as if everyone else is doing more amazing things than you and your family but instead focus on what it is that you and your own children want to do,” advises mum and author Sarah. “Avoid comparison and aiming for perfection as actually this is about you and your family,” adds Jayne. “Be aware of your social media usage and if you notice that it is having a negative impact on your mental health, consider reducing your scrolling or perhaps even taking a total break from it.”
Before or at the start of the holiday, talk to the kids about what the summer is going to look like. Particularly for older kids, set boundaries and establish reasonable expectations about the way you’re going to spend the time, the behaviour you expect and any variation in the normal rules. For example, perhaps your teenagers are allowed out later during the summer but you expect them to walk the dog every day. Laying the boundaries down early helps everybody understand what to expect and is expected of them, and hopefully in turn makes for a more harmonious house. And don’t be afraid to set financial boundaries too. Involving the kids in budgeting for your summer experiences in an age-appropriate way can help them learn important money management skills that will stand them in good stead for later life.
Embrace the boredom
Banish any notion that you have to provide nonstop entertainment over the hols. Boredom is actually really important for neurodevelopment so there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about leaving your children to find their own entertainment at times.
“It’s fine to have downtime and in actual fact boredom is great for kids’ creativity,” Sarah points out. Coach Jayne agrees: “Don’t feel that you have to provide entertainment at all times,” she says. “Kids being bored and having to create some free play is actually really good for the development of their brains.”
So don’t feel guilty about times when there are no plans and you need to do things besides childcare. By all means give them some options of activities they can do and set some parameters, but otherwise leave them to find their own entertainment, safe in the knowledge that doing so is great for them.
So often parents have grand plans for the summer holidays but find they haven’t seen half of those ideas into fruition as August draws to a close. Or they find that they have worked so hard to make as many of those plans a reality as possible that come the first day of term their energy levels, tolerance threshold and bank balance are all near breaking point. Be realistic about just how much you can do in one day or week as far as your energy, mental wellbeing, finances and other responsibilities and commitments are concerned. With a little forward thought and planning you can make this summer the most enjoyable your family has ever had, and teach some great wellbeing lessons at the same time.