It’s the summer holidays. Eight glorious weeks of hopeful sunshine, exploring in rockpools, and 99’s with an extra flake. At least that is the dream, but we all know these weeks of no school and irregular days can be overwhelming to say the least. For every perfect summer day out, whether it’s a perfect day trip to the Zoo with all the animals coming out to play or a long lingering day at the beach on perfectly white sand, there may be three awkward and frustrating days that follow. It’s these days you want to sell the kids on eBay (and your other half!)! The lengthy days feel longer and the countdown to bedtime (ours not theirs) seems slower! The kids are bored, they’re bouncing off the walls, and they find the pinching game to be hilarious until one of them ends up in tears. It’s loud. The house appears smaller. And you look to the calendar to see how many days are left until the new school year starts. This 24/7 summer schedule can be a challenge!
Being out of routine can knock the kids sideways making them more excitable, agitated, and impulsive compared to an ordinary day. Throw this combination together with an exhausted, equally agitated, and tattered parent and we have a not so winning combination. But none of us want to start off the holidays worrying it’s going to be a stressful, arduous, and frustrating couple of months. And truly, it doesn’t have to be like that anyway! We can avoid the school holiday overwhelm.
1. Lean In
The freedom that comes with not having to run out the door first thing in the morning, make lunches, or even keep to a strict bedtime, means we can lean into the idea of slow living and find a way to boost our wellbeing and that of our family. It is a chance to catch up and unwind without opting into everything on offer for our kids.
When the holidays roll around we start to think about summer camps, and activities, and a million and one other ways to keep the kids occupied during their many weeks off. We schedule, and organise, and plan because we think that is how we will manage the weeks. But in many ways this overscheduling can dull our summer as a family as it keeps us in an ad hoc routine which leaves little room for the wonderful spontaneity the holidays can bring.
Lean into the freedom of the summer and schedule time to relax, lazy days, opt-out days, and remember the chaos of life will come back come in a couple of months.
2. Have a Plan (and a contingency plan!)
Of course, leaning into the summer holidays may also need an action plan, especially if you work from home or run your own business. With a business, or substantial workload during the summer holidays, the weeks can be incredibly overbearing as we try to find a balance when we’re all out of routine. But it is doable with a good plan or two in place.
Having a blueprint of sorts, whether you work from home or not, can be a good idea so you know whether you are coming or going, meaning you can also peel the kids off the walls! So, of course, book those summer camps if necessary for the weeks of busy meetings or projects. Work out a childminding schedule and plan those essential day trips the kids have been talking about. And when you do venture out into the wilds of the world, go prepared.
Having a plan eases not only our mind about how we will fit everything in that we need to do, but it will also pinpoint when we can take those great day trips we are looking forward to. In this way, we’re focused on each and every day over the holidays, giving our undivided attention to either work or the kids. It’s certainly a different kind of leaning in, and while it’s not slow living, it is organised living!
3. Be Good to Yourself
The overwhelm of being surrounded by not only the physical presence of our kids but also their never-ending demands can hit us with an extreme mental overload. Being that constantly, ‘always on’ parent has the ability to push us towards burnout even quicker than a regular stubborn week in February!
Be good to yourself. Practice self-care. Take guilt-free time out. Do something for yourself. Find your own space. Breathe.
4: Ditch the Guilt
There will be days full of TV from 9am to bedtime. There will be washout days in the park when no one has a rain jacket. There will be tantrums and dropped ice creams. There will perfect and not so perfect photos. And no matter how much we counted down to it, there will be a sadness when it comes to the last day of the holidays.
No matter what happens over the next eight weeks, get rid of any guilt that tries to creep in. Know you are doing your best by you and by your kids. Guilt will only keep you in your head and make your heart ache. What good is that when you want to be fully in the moment with your kids? They won’t remember the storm clouds. They’ll remember jumping in puddles with you. They won’t remember the melting, sticky 99. They’ll remember climbing on your back as you run down the beach with them. They won’t remember the TV shows they watched. They’ll remember the jokes told at the dinner table.
Ditch the guilt and make memories.