I’ve heard this term a lot lately and read it all over the internet. It’s a shame really.
When did parenting become such an extreme sport to the point that even the summer holidays has become an act of survival, where only the strongest, richest, most tolerant, organised parent seems to make it through unscathed? I’m no different , in survival mode already on day one of week three. Partly because I juggle the six weeks of childcare with family while I work a (pretty much) full time job and try to build a business on the side. And partly due to the amount of pressure I put myself under constantly. So here’s my pennies worth – a little bit of “take my advice, I’m not using it ” – to help get you through the summer. And hell, why not, let’s scrap the “survival” notion and go for full on – How to ‘Enjoy’ the Summer Holidays!
First things first… Dont sweat the small stuff. Don’t go crazy with the rules and abandon all that hard work you’ve established in term time, but maybe just relax a little. Who cares if the ice creams dripping down their t-shirts (again!), or if bed time has slipped a bit, or if they skip bath time (some nights) and shower first thing. Or if they have Nutella on toast every day So long as they understand that these are special holiday treats it’s all ok, all in moderation as they say… and try to enjoy the slippages yourself, sit with a glass of wine while they play out later. Savour it.
Have the basics at hand always. Get yourself a few things in that you’ll need lots of as the basics. Factor 50, bread, milk, cheese and ham, ice pops, calpol, a water trough (or paddling pool) might be a few things that will keep things generally going at yours. For me it’s pancakes, bananas, milk and lollies! You know your list so if anything stock up on just that and you’ll feel like a winner!!
Make some light rules around the things that frustrate you. Like screen time. No point banning it altogether perhaps but create a daily or weekly limit that works for you and stick with it. Mix it up with the downtime they need or have it up your sleeve as a negotiation tactic. But either way set the plan early in their minds and be consistent.
Join in! Be in the moment as much as you can. I struggle daily with this, there’s never enough time, hands, help etc. But I’ve learnt the hard way that this is what brings me fulfilment and satisfaction more than having conquered the washing pile or nailed the loading/ unloading dishwasher routine. Bounce with them on the trampoline for a bit (pelvic floor depending ). Do a bit of Lego. Colouring in, baking cookies etc. I know there are a million jobs to do and a business to run etc. But I always feel better about myself for those dedicated minutes.
Plan – but don’t kill yourself in planning. Make a short bucket list of places you want to go, people to visit, play dates etc that you can scatter through the holidays. I’ve only got two weeks with mine all summer so this makes it even more important for me. Hopefully this way you won’t have that panicked feeling of no plans, nothing to do, nor will you have stuffed yourself so full of activities that the summer has become a boot camp of missions to here there and everywhere. It’s a fine balance. But you can do it.
Set yourself a budget that works. I think so many of us stress about the endless spending and seeming lack of control we have over this in the summer. Everything costs, then there’s forgotten add ons – petrol, drinks, snacks, the begged for souvenir. Try to plan your summer budget up front and be prepared for the big days. Then hopefully it’s not such a fright at the time or after. And the free stuff is just as good if not more memorable – beach’s, parks, forests, walks, kite flying etc!
Vouchers!! They seem to be everywhere. Don’t be proud. Or not bothered. Even collecting two days out vouchers will seriously help your summer campaign. Legoland for example are giving away tickets everywhere. On the side of Cadbury’s sharer packets, or when you spend over £20 on Lego sets I heard today, so keep an eye out and reap the reward of cheaper/ FREE admission!
Take recommendations, not risks. If time and money are precious, which they no doubt are, then go with tried and tested suggestions? I’ve created a pretty cool resource (even if I do say so) in wikiplacesforkids.com to help parents plan ahead. I for one don’t have time to wade through millions of sites or endless search results so created an edit of the best places to go with the kids, a mix of free stuff and bigger days, but ALL recommended by parents so you know you’ve got a good day planned. It’s never going to be an exhaustive list, but a shortcut to finding the best in your area for all sorts of things, forests, camping, soft play, restaurants etc. A word of mouth portal if you like. It’s a work in progress but it’s already packed with awesome ideas across the UK. So do check it out first to make your shortlist.
Mix up the activities with as many big days as possible but don’t stress yourself. It doesn’t need to be every week. Maybe just one big thing to look forward to at the end of the summer (and to use as bait for best behaviour). To be honest, everywhere’s rammed all summer anyway so don’t push yourselves to do all the years big activities now. Term time weekends might be better for some big destinations and it will take the pressure off a little now.
Remember that being at home sometimes is just as fun – if not essential for kids – as being out all the time. Schedule in DVD days, create a home cinema, picnics or camping in the garden. Give them time to play with all those toys they have that seem to sit abandoned. Get them involved with some jobs round the house even! It’s all good stuff.
Safety in numbers. When in doubt, organise play dates. And remember this is your time too, get their besties over but get yours too! I for one cannot get through without a weekly dose of my best gal pals – the download of life’s craziness and putting the world to rights for a few hours is just the weekly reset I need. And if she’s a keeper, your pal might also want to squeeze in that rewarding afternoon glass of vino with you that you both deserve. Think about it – If you were on holiday you would?? And you are! So Why not!? (Just don’t drive for god sake!)
Depending on the age of yours, perhaps keep some plans to yourself. The ones you know they will hold onto the most. I’ve learnt recently not to tell my son if we’re having a play date or going somewhere cool until the last minute (he’s almost five). This is mainly due to the huge frequency of things falling through at the eleventh hour. Shit happens. It rains! People let you down, you let people down. It’s all ok. But the aftermath can be hell right? So not telling him until it’s a 100% works for me at the moment. Damage limitation and all!
Just remember that in general, most kids are just happy to be off school and to get to spend some time with You. My little boy is chuffed that his sister is in nursery for the next two days and we get to spend 1 on 1 time together. So far we have nothing set in stone and that’s ok. So be kind to yourself and know that you just being there for a small amount of undivided time will be great. And it’s OK godforbid, if not essential, that they are allowed to get BORED. If I think back to my summer holidays it was six weeks of playing outside – no plans – just endless days. I LOVED it. Some days were the best. Others sooooo boring, but those days definitely fuelled my creativity and my ability to crack on and be self motivated. So while you will inevitably have a mountain of stuff to do to keep the world going round this summer, don’t stress about them being entertained, this could be the making of them!
Have the best holiday! If you get a moment to share the places you’ve found on the wikilist please do and be part of something that helps all parents everywhere have great days!