The school holidays always seem to bring a sense of dread among many parents I speak to. Many feel it’s a time where they feel exhausted, inadequate and stressed.
I don’t hate the school holidays. I use to, but I’m finding them easier as time goes on. I do miss the routine of school etc but I love not rushing around in the morning for the school run and spending some time as a family. However, like many I do find them stressful. The kids seem to need entertainment 24/7, and they get bored easily which usually leads to them squabbling.
Previously I would feel a failure because I hadn’t taken the kids out to do exciting things each day, and my social media would be filled with other parents on a seemingly endless run of amazing day trips & fun activities. But as I always say – take these things with a pinch of salt, you can’t judge or compare yourself to other people images.
Here are some things which I find helpful during the summer break, some may not be useful to you, but a few might. Find out what works best for you and your family, it’s taken me a couple of years to find what works for us and I’m still learning as my children grow.
Sometimes it can help to have a rough plan. Be flexible with it, don’t set anything in stone because it can lead to you feeling like you’ve failed if you don’t accomplish it. Maybe just write a list of activities or ideas of things you could do with the children throughout the holiday to keep them entertained. You can find lists of ideas on Pinterest, most of which are free.
Don’t take on more than you can handle
Don’t overload yourself with plans. This can cause you to feel exhausted and stressed which is a trigger when you’re struggling with mental health. Maybe plan 2 or 3 things a week and allow the rest of your days to be filled with whatever helps you. Whether that be going out or staying at home; do what feels like a good balance for you.
This is something so many feel guilty for doing but it’s ok to accept help. If a friend or family member offers to help, take it. I use to feel guilty if my mum took the kids out for a few hours, and I’ll be honest I thought I was a failure if anyone helped. However, the kids love spending time with their Nan, she loves seeing them and it gives me a few hours to myself. It’s ok to accept help.
Get Out The House
Fresh air can work wonders. I struggled with agoraphobia for a couple of years and it was tough spending all my time alone at home. Try getting out even if it’s a half hour walk or a trip to the seaside. The sun, fresh air and exercise can do you the world of good – plus it tires out the kids!
Children Centres often hold free baby/toddler groups, and during the summer holidays they often hold events to include older siblings too. Have a look at what is going on in your area and take advantage of the groups, it can be a great way to make friends, learn about new activities in your area and keep the kids occupied.
Do not forget to take care of yourself. If the kids are playing in the garden, sit out there with them and a cup of tea. Take advantage and read a book or just sit down and watch them play. Sometimes the jobs and chores can wait because self care is important.
I think we can all be guilty of this one, we imagine how the holiday will go, all the things we will do. Then our reality can be very different; the kids fight, our homes a mess and we don’t manage to do everything we set out to do. This comes back to my previous points of not taking on more than we can manage and allowing our plans to be flexible. No one can do it all, and we need to let whatever we do be enough.
It’s ok to be bored
Yep it’s true it’s ok for the kids to be bored. We don’t have to entertain them 24/7, it can be good for them to have times where they use their imagination and play. Mine are quite happy playing in swimming pool (if UK weather allows!) or watching a movie (if it’s raining!). We don’t need to have activities and days out planned for every single day for 6/7 or 8 weeks!
Stop. Space. Start Again.
This is for the times when we can feel things boiling over. Let’s be honest kids can push our buttons. No matter how much we love them, they can also frustrate us beyond words! Sometimes we shout, then feel guilty, we’ve all been there but this is something I find helps when you can feel the anger bubbling.
Stop – take a moment, stop whatever it is you’re doing, or if you’re arguing with an older child tell them to wait & walk away.
Space – get some space, walk into another room, I know sometimes they can follow us but just tell them you need a minute.
Start Again – take some deep breaths, allow yourself to slow your breathing and slow the rage that’s building inside. When you’re ready and feel calmer, start over.
Sometimes we can get angry and it’s easy to get carried away, this is just a little technique I find useful and it stops things turning into a yelling match. Of course there are times this won’t work (& we’ve all been there where we shout) but if we can stop the anger before it boils over, it can help us and calm the difficult situation we are in.
Pick your battles
This leads on from my previous point and this tip isn’t for everyone but it works for me – I pick my battles. Sometimes if it’s been a stressful day, I’m not going to have a half hour battle with my child to pick up the DVDs or cushions, I’ll just do it. Of course we need to teach our children to respect their things and pick up after themselves but sometimes for peace and our own sanity it’s not worth the row. So I pick my battles, some things I won’t ignore but some of the minor things I just let go during the holidays.
Finally – my huge bug bear that I am always talking about – Social Media. While it can be wonderful at bringing communities together and allowing us to connect with others, it has a side I’m not keen on and that’s the image of “perfection” we often have thrown at us. Do not compare your summer break with others, do not compare your home, your parenting style or you as a person. You are good enough as you are, you’re doing a wonderful job and remember that what we see online isn’t the full story.
These tips might help some, and for others they may not work, each person Is different and will have something which works for them. What I do know is that so many parents struggle, whether they show it or not (and of course there will be some who love every second). Remember that you are not alone, there will be many others who find the holidays difficult. Joining some online groups may help you, just so you can speak with others going through similar. Try ‘PND and Me‘ #pndchat on twitter a community I have found to be non judgmental, and supportive.
Do you have any tips to share which help you though the school holidays?