Children's mental health: Seven steps to surviving the six week holidays
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Are you counting down to the end of school runs and start of fun packed days, or are you feeling overwhelmed, wondering how you will keep the kids entertained, stop them fighting and juggling it all?
Love them or loathe them, six weeks of school holidays are fast approaching and will undoubtedly be looking a little different for us all this year. Some parents may still be working from home, vacations may have been cancelled and many families will still be experiencing the financial and emotional effects of the past 18 months.
Here are some top tips to surviving the summer holidays:
- Know your budget
Look at your finances in advance and work within your means - family fun doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of free or cheap activities and you can find some great suggestions through local organisations like raring2go, mumsguideto and daysoutwiththekids.
- Get organised and plan ahead
Involve the children and plan time with friends, a little of what everyone wants to do and don’t forget to plan in plenty of downtime also. Take the British summer into consideration and have a Plan B if the activity is weather dependent. It’s really important not to overschedule yourselves, especially since lockdown! It’s so exciting that we can go out and see everyone again, but it can also be overwhelming – especially when we plan in too much.
- Let go of any feeling of “summer should…"
You know, those little inner nags that tell you that you 'should' make the most of the holidays and the sunshine, you 'should' have a packed diary of social events, you 'should' go on holiday and you 'should' love and embrace every moment.
The summer holidays are long and are not always easy, so be kind to yourself and your children. If you just feel like having a lazy day and need to change plans, then do what feels right.
- Plan time to play
Children need time to play and they love nothing more than for you to join them, be silly, have fun and watch their little faces light up as a result. You could play hide and seek, create a treasure hunt, dress up, or build a den together.
Think about the games that you enjoyed as a child and play them with your children this summer. Children thrive from having unstructured time to be free, to use their imaginations and get creative, to explore and take healthy risks. They love opportunities to get out, problem solve, experiment and challenge themselves physically and mentally.
- Keep some routine and structure
The routine of school life has gone and whilst it’s lovely to have some late nights and lay ins, children actually thrive off routine.
Tiredness can be a trigger for stress and unwanted behaviour and during the holidays, where there is less routine and structure, children will be more likely to ‘push back’ and challenge the boundaries.
- Set some family rules
It might help to establish rules around screen time, bedtime, routine, helping round the house and so on in advance and write them down so everyone can see and agree about what needs doing - and when.
If you have a mutually agreed plan in place it is easier to stick to. It also helps if (when) things go awry, as you can refer to the agreement, and children can hold you to account too!
- Remember that we are still riding the storm
When we make our feelings our priority, then everything else slots into place. You can plan six weeks of super fun-packed activities but if your mind-set is anxious, frustrated, flustered or sad it won't be fun for you at all. Your children pick up on your emotions, no matter how hard you try to hide them. Equally, our children have been through so much as well. We can plan an amazing day out and they may become overwhelmed and not enjoy it.
Feelings just are. We cannot control them or fix them, they just need to be felt, accepted and truly listened to before they can be released. Make sure that children feel emotionally safe, and you are emotionally available.
Set realistic expectations for you both. Encourage your children to talk about their thoughts and feelings, listen, and be empathic. Reassure them that we all have this ‘Rainbow of Feelings” inside of us, and every feeling is OK.
If your child is struggling with their BIG feelings visit www.sunnykidsshine.com or email Jodie at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a FREE initial consultation.