5 simple things you can do to create stress free school holidays
Ah, the school holidays. For me, it’s about not having a repetitive routine, enjoying lazy days and later nights, relaxing the rules and enjoying some quality time with kids, friends and family. My aim is always to have a stress free school holiday.
Every family does their school holidays differently but I have noticed that there are some mums that are ‘over doers’ which can generate guilt, stress, financial burden and a far from relaxing time.
I call them the ‘entertainer’ – the mum that fills every waking moment with activities, play dates, visits and collapses exhausted by the end of the holidays, grateful that school has begun again and wondering why she has no real memory of the blur that has been the school holiday. Neither does she feel like she has achieved anything for either herself or for any project that she has going on in the background. She tells herself that all this sacrifice and self-denial is what being a ‘mum’ is about. She experiences guilt when a bit of resentment creeps in. Then she carries on ‘over doing’ for everyone else to compensate for the guilt. And so, the treadmill carries on.
Does this sound like something you have experienced?
Is there a bit of the above that resonates and you are squirming a little?
Are you telling yourself that this sounds just a little bit familiar?
It’s totally fine to want to give your children the world but that doesn’t mean that a) you have to or b) that it’s healthy to do so.
There is a way off the treadmill that not only gives you time for yourself, but also enables you to create memories that you remember as well as contributing positively to your children’s developmental skills.
And here’s how (and why!)
- Allowing a child to be bored and to figure out how to entertain themselves is crucial to their self- esteem and problem-solving skills. Now I’m not talking leaving them to their own devices 24/7 but the odd couple of hours here and there is just grand. For younger children, have a box of games/ideas prepared and then when you decide that they need to self-entertain, there is something for them to go and select. Encourage older children to ‘find’ something they want to do. My kids will probably roll their eyes at this one but my favourite stock phrase was: “you have a room and garden full of toys and games, if you cannot find something among that lot, then maybe you need to consider giving them to charity so that someone else can use them?” Worked every time!
- Turn routine tasks into a game. For example, everyone has to eat so do homemade pizzas and get the children involved with making dough (if you are brave enough!), cutting up vegetables and preparing all the toppings. See who can come up with the best face or pizza combination. Dog walks can become adventure/nature trails – building a camp or finding different plants etc. Entertainment and tasks all done in one go! Plus, your children are learning to take responsibility and contribute to the household tasks.
- Give your children a budget for activities so that they learn the cost of things and how to manage money. It’s never to early to set your children up for good spending habits. Make sure they allow for the peripheries as well. So, if they want a day out to a theme park, are they going to want to eat food there or buy souvenirs? – they need to factor this in and decide if they want a packed lunch instead to allow for another activity. For younger children, write up a list of costs related to their selections and for older children, encourage them to go off and do the research and bring their findings to you.
- Sit down as a family before the holidays and discuss what all of you want to do. If you need some time for yourself or to devote to a project/work, say so. This helps everyone see that they are individuals with their own needs and encourages cooperation and empathy. By having this discussion, everyone is aware of each other’s wants and needs and these can all be factored in accordingly. Drawing up a plan also helps give a visual representation of where time is being spent so that everyone can see and appreciate that they are being accommodated.
- Remember that downtime is as important as being active. Your kids work hard at school and their brains and bodies need time to switch off. If they don’t learn this now then how will they learn to relax when they are adults? It doesn’t have to mean endless (or mindless) TV time but a great film here or there is a great wind down. Encourage reading, doing jigsaws or whatever your child likes to do as a way of relaxing.
Holidays are a great way to connect with your children and do not have to cost the earth or be an endless cycle of stimulus. The holidays are about family and as you are part of that family, this means you can also kick back and relax or take time out for you.
And if like me, you are not very inventive at coming up with new games or adventures, there are plenty of books or websites to help you along.
So, make a decision now to make the school holidays something you look forward to, guilt free and fun all round!
If you have found this useful and would love more strategies on how to create a life outside of being ‘mum’, check out my book, Beyond the school gate – When being mum is not enough.