Who’s thankful for the summer holidays? We can hear kids cheering already but can see the faces of frazzled parents, exhausted grandparents, and hefty childcare bills. Yay for summer! Each year an academic year is laid to rest, and our children break up for the summer holidays, for us to all get some much-needed rest and recuperation - phewwww!
Although most children don’t really understand the meaning of relaxing and slowing down - they’re far too excited by the freedom from the school routine, staying in PJs long into the afternoon, meeting up with friends, going to the park in the middle of the day, later evenings and luscious lie-ins.
We get pre-stressed for holidays
As parents, we have so many things to think about during the holidays... How do we keep up with work? What can we do to entertain the kid? How can we enjoy the holidays without remortgaging the house? And with a pandemic, well let’s just say it doesn’t sound very all-inclusive-laying-by-a-pool-relaxing, does it?
But while we’re thinking about so many things our stress levels rise. Trying to cram in as much work as possible so that we can have more time with our children, attempting to plan nice day trips or holidays (while praying for decent weather), tearing kids away from their screens because ‘too much screen time is bad’ for them, and trying to keep them fed with nutritious meals and a million snacks. It’s a lot of pressure to manage.
Stress not! Or less at least. Here are 5 simple ways to beat the summer holiday stress:
1. Keep a loose routine
Our usual routines fly out of the window quicker than we can say “EasyJet” when the holidays arrive, and that’s totally fine. We don't need to keep up with the usual daily routine because for many of our children school is a large chunk of that and it doesn’t exist in the holidays. But keeping to some sort of routine can help us feel a little more in control which can help us to relax. Stick to a wake-up time each day, even if it’s later than usual, a regular wake up time will help with getting the kids to bed (they’ll feel tired at a similar time each evening). Get outside for an hour or so each day, even if it’s just in the garden or local park, give the kids time to run about and burn off some energy. Find an activity to do, whether it's a day out or painting rocks, making lunch, reading a book, or even the classic ‘sleeping lions’ game - extra peace and quiet with that one too!
2. Flexibility is key
Making plans for the holidays is hard work but ever so rewarding, it’s likely to mean more memories, discovering new things, and spending quality time together. But we can’t control the weather, our mood, the kids’ mood, or whether the entire population of the UK will also go to the beach on the same day we want too. So make plans, but keep them flexible so we can easily adapt when things go wrong, there’s a tantrum brewing or it starts chucking it down after the forecast predicted nothing but sun.
An idea might be to have a regular outing, maybe a day each week to go out and do something fun or different will help you all through the more monotonous days and keep spirits high for looking forward to something - plus you’ll all be ready for it when it swings round each week, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. If you’re a working parent, keep a designated workday (or two, or three), keeping the same days for work each week will help you maintain your workload but also keep your children in the loop and therefore won’t be surprised that you can’t attend Ariel’s wedding part 3 or the arts and crafts corner for finger painting.
3. You can switch off too
Switching off from daily demands, whether it’s work, parenting, household chores will help keep our stress levels from rising. When we’re not working, don’t check emails “just in case”, when the kids have gone to bed, do something for you, watch something you want to watch or have a bath without the ducks and boats. Take ten minutes to sit down when you can, that pile of washing doesn’t need tackling the right way nor will it really matter if there are dirty dishes on the side for a night. Your rest is important too and will help improve our mood throughout the day and that’s what you’ll all remember - not whether you managed to get all the laundry done (unless you’re running low on pants, then maybe do a small load).
4. Go easy on yourself
Six weeks is an awfully long time to fill with fun activities while trying to maintain parent-of-the-year. There are so many pressures as a parent to ensure your child grows up to be a wonderful human. But let’s be real for a second, some are contradictory and an absolute minefield to navigate! So, if your children spent a little too long staring at a screen, you gave them a few too many sweets to keep them quiet for a bit, or they didn’t get dressed till gone midday - go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up or add more pressure to your load just because someone on Instagram has been making homemade, organic-only meals every day, or the kids next door are so pleasant and polite you question whether they are actually robots, or everyone on Facebook has enjoyed several tantrum-free day trips just this week (which, let’s be honest, probably weren’t really tantrum-free).
5. Indulge and enjoy
The holidays are for relaxing, having fun, and doing the things we can’t really do every day right? Although, it can feel like taking on a 6-week course as a children’s entertainer. So, if your children only cooperate wearing a fancy dress costume (and refuses to wear anything else to come to the supermarket) go with it, and if they’ve had chicken nuggets and chips more times than you’d like to admit this week, don’t worry give them some extra broccoli tomorrow.
We don’t need to panic if our usual household rules are laxed, even if you’re trying to teach your children healthy lifestyle choices - indulging can still healthy because it usually brings us joy, and those moments of joy help us to recognise the good things in life and we can also learn that the good things have to come to an end too - otherwise we’d eventually get bored. Although we wish you luck trying to explain that to a sugared-up 5-year-old!
De-stressing in summer: we know much of de-stressing is easier said than done, especially when we have small children (not to mention teenagers) around. Managing the summer will have its testing moments so try to appreciate the small moments of compliance, agreement and cuteness as they come. Watch your scrolling, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and enjoy yourself.