Every year the summer holidays creep up on us and each July it feels as though we didn’t see them coming.
But a few weeks in the cracks are beginning to show. You may have exhausted all of your options to keep the kids entertained, the costs are mounting and the childcare choices are beginning to run low.
As a working parent, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool. Easy to say, but if you’re worked up and stressed, the children will most definitely be impacted by your mood. Here, we worked with CABA, the wellbeing charity, to share some valuable advice on how to enjoy a stress-free summer.
1. Go easy on yourself
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when the pressure of the summer holidays gets to us. Social media can be awash with your parent friends posting pictures of their perfect summer, it’s hard not to compare yourself to them, especially if you’ve spent the day listening to your children bicker. But remember, their posts are unlikely to reflect their real life, rather just a split-second highlight of their day.
Be realistic with what you will be able to achieve for the rest of the holidays, especially if you are having to balance work in that time as well.
Don’t forget to have well deserved ‘me-time’. Even if all you have time for is a long bath with a book, ensure you have that opportunity to switch off and recharge. Your children will notice that you have relaxed and appreciate having a more tranquil and centred parent.
2. Turn the guilt off
Of course you love spending time with your children, but there is no need to feel guilty for wanting downtime, 6-8 weeks is a long time to spend with anyone, even your own children, so appreciate that at times, you will all want time away from each other.
For those of us who don’t have the option to be away from work for the entire summer, it’s easy to feel as though you’re letting the children down and having to juggle parenting and work. Remember, you certainly aren’t the only parent in this position. Talk to other mums who are having to balance work, perhaps even make a group chat where you can all air your frustrations and support each other throughout the summer. You might pick up tips from them, or even be able to co-ordinate regular childcare with them.
3. Be smart with your time
Just because the children are off school, doesn’t mean that clothes don’t need to be washed and the floors don’t need to be hoovered. Unfortunately, we never get a break from household chores. Why not try and co-ordinate a day or 2 at home each week, where you can enlist the children to support you with age-appropriate chores? You could even use the time to cook together, perhaps teaching the children to make simple bakes.
Try and enforce a routine as we get closer towards September. Not only will it be beneficial for you to ensure the days run smoothly and are structured, but it will make the transition back to school or nursery easier for the children when the summer does end, as well as making sure that no-one is over tired.
4. Plan as much as possible
If you can, try to go to bed each night with a plan for the day ahead, not having an idea of what the day will bring can often lead to unproductive time with nothing being achieved.
Keep an eye out on the weather and plan around the forecast. If the weather isn’t set to be great, phone round friends and other parents to arrange a few playdates. If the children have someone to play with, you won’t need to battle against rainy-day boredom. You never know, they might just return the favour and invite your children round at a later date.
5. Let the children have input
Nobody wants to drag around a surly child who would rather be anywhere, but where you have chosen to go around. It will make the day feel twice as long and painful. By allowing your children to have input on the schedules they will feel involved and willing to accept doing something they wouldn’t necessarily chose, as they know their suggestions may be happening afterwards. Remember, the more involved they feel in the planning process the more willing they will be to go along with it, even if it’s just choosing the evening’s meal.
6. Don’t break the bank
Finally, make sure you don’t break the bank this summer. You can make memories and have fun with your children during your time off work no matter what your budget is. Be creative and remember to enjoy this time, as after all, it won’t last forever.
Don’t feel like you need to do costly and extravagant activities each day, spread these moments across the weeks so you and the children have days to look forward to. Quality moments don’t need to cost the earth, and the best, most memorable times often happen in the home.
These precious summers with the children will be what you look back on in the future, and the times they enjoy the most about their childhood. Making sure you’re at your best during this summer, will go a long way in ensuring your children have fond memories of the time you spent together.