The end of the school year is looming and a monumental challenge is ready and waiting for us parents as we embark on 6 full weeks with our children. Over the past week I have seen various posts on blogs and across social media which I have found quite honestly a bit “preachy.” The posts have outlined that we shouldn’t be “surviving” that each day should be a wonderful opportunity to spend with our children.
Of course whilst I agree spending time with my children is something I enjoy there is still an element of fear and panic which seemingly arises from the nearing of the six weeks holiday. Also to some parents six weeks will be a struggle; especially with factors such as low income, work/child care juggling, lack of facilities around them (lives in the middle of no where lacking public transport) and other pressures.
Personally I can find the school holidays lonely. Admittedly through my own accord I find it easier for me and the children to carry out my days as a lone ranger. My middles son being autistic means we work around strict (ish) routines, leaving for parks and activities early before they get too busy and coming home and having more of a chilled afternoon indoors or in the garden.
Every parent and circumstance is different so I thought I would collaborate a general survival guide to hopefully ease some of the pressures us parents feel in the school holidays and how to overcome them.
Staying at Home
You look through your social media and the Jones are off out to the zoo today after the beach yesterday, a theme park the day before… Stop! Don’t feel guilt about not taking your child out every day somewhere exciting and new not to mention expensive. Even visiting the local park can become an expensive trap especially when that predatory ice cream van turns up. Long gone are the days of a “popeye” (how amazing were popeyes?!) costing you just 50p. Suddenly your three children are wanting icrecream on top of the picnic you brought and you’re another tenner short! Of course being at home every day may cause cabin fever and eventual insanity, which I was close to lately with all three of mine at home with chicken pox. However the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes children like to have a day at home playing and even just resting. There is no shame with days at home. Some of my children’s best times are in our actual home making dens on rainy days.
Top Tip: Go upstairs with some bags to take broken/disused toys to the recycling centre. Consequently as you sort through the toys which have lay discarded for the last 4 years at the bottom of the toy box your children will stop whining about being bored and decide they need to play with that toy immediately and for the majority of the day, to save it from the clutches of the recycle centre!
Your children will ask for snacks regularly. Regularly as in every 15 minutes, leaving you to wonder how on earth your little cherubs ever survive the school day without frequent snacks. The beginning of the week will consist of strict healthy snacking times but as the weeks progress and you become more and more defeated by the constant snacking demands your thoughts turn from;
- Concern – does your child in fact have some kind of condition? Do they have worms?
- Anger – “I bet you wouldn’t ask Mrs Smith for extra snack times!”
- Defeat – leaving the biscuit tin left open for them to help themselves whilst you have 20 minutes peace from the relentless dictators whom you have spawned
I find this element of the holidays unbearable. Constantly torn between discipline and a need for peace from the insistent demands. A friend of mine gave me a great idea which I will be trialling this holiday where by she has a snack bag for each child with a variety of healthy and less unhealthy items. Each morning they are given them and then the bags kept in a cupboard where they can eat them at their own choice throughout the day. In her experience yes the eldest ate the whole lot before 10 am but didn’t the following days and the constant snack demands stopped!
Being Anti Social
It is ok not to welcome other children and their parents. You are only human to dislike other families and unfortunately school holidays will be full of them, at the parks, soft play centres etc. We all come from different backgrounds and upbringings and I,100 per cent know that some families in my neighbourhood actively feared me as a child “playing out” with their children. My plotting and scheming knew no bounds and I was always aiming to be the ruler in all games. To the extent that one time a few days after Brownies, I had learnt some first aid and decided to put it to good use. Therefore the next day of the summer holidays I rummaged through my mum’s first aid kit and perfected a professional sling for my younger brothers arm. We snuck out to play with the other kids in the banjo (green area on a cul-de-sac – for anyone non London) I demanded we played whatever game my brother wanted (which of course I had picked) due to my brothers injuries sustained through “being run over by a car.” We had a great day playing my games until I got home and one of the other parents had made a phone call enquiring after my mother and how she was after my brother’s recent, imaginary road incident. One of many sneaky schemes but they do make me think about my own children and how I would actively dislike a child like myself playing with them!
Don’t feel guilty about not attending every organised play date arranged in the Facebook groups and WhatsApp chats with the school gate mums. If you feel you don’t want to attend then don’t. I actively avoid busy places in the summer holidays mainly because my middle son finds crowds awkward but also because some times I just like I need to have some time to myself with the children, out in open spaces with no pressures and just spending time talking and playing together.
My National Trust membership has become one of my most treasured possessions and me and the kids love nothing more than getting up early and becoming lost together in one of their attractions without a single soul to bother us!
To Educate or not to Educate
In my teaching days I was asked this frequently “What shall I do over the holidays to stop my child falling behind?” Accompanying them very normal parental thoughts will be the fresh rows of colourful “educational” books for children to complete at home around this time of year in the shops. I do not claim to be a perfect parent but I do believe that unless your child wants to they won’t sit and do half hours handwriting and sentence structure practice each morning of the 6 Weeks Holidays willingly. You can still educate with out sitting them down with a mundane exercise book which will become grueling for you both.
Younger children in particular can be easily manipulated into being educated without them even realising. Asking them to help you write a shopping list before the hellish weekly shop (handwriting and spelling), a game of eye spy on a car journey (phonics) or counting red cars etc. all contribute to getting their little minds thinking. Likewise, after a day out, getting them to draw a picture of the day and then simply talking about it and scribing a sentence for them to stick on the fridge, is a good way to incorporate some sneaky educating. Anywhere you visit for the day even the local park can become learning environments without them knowing it with endless possibilities which will be fun and enjoyable for you both.
Keep it Local
Often we try to think of amazing days out for our children to places which require a road trip (hell on earth) and ultimately end up drastically expensive with ticket prices. During Easter I actively avoided places such as these in a bid to prove on my social media pages that you can still have great days out with a fraction of the cost and right on your door step! Just searching on Facebook or looking at local notice boards you can find some great activities in local community centres, libraries and churches.
Our local cathedral has a weekly craft morning completely free which the children absolutely love. Also the local library have arranged scavenger hunts previously where you simply picked up a map and enjoyed at your own time and leisure. The library I have also noted have a whole range of events this six weeks too such as animal experiences, hama bead and lego conventions and much more. What could be better than having someone else talk through the crafts and instigate them and clean up the mess after!
42 days is a long time with constant one to one time with your children. You are only human to feel anxious, likewise throughout those days you are only normal to have bad days. Parenting is not always the sunshine and rainbows portrayed in the snap shots we see in other parent’s lives on social media. They too probably throw away colds cups of tea, eat sneaky snacks out of sight of their demanding children and haven’t had a wee in peace for the last 6 years. Don’t judge yourself against posed photographs and create unrealistic expectations for yourself. The past February half term I planned so much and had disastrous days on those days I over planned and held such high expectations for. When I asked my children what their favourite day of the holidays was they said the dentist and hair dressers! Which unbelievably was mine!
I hope whatever you do over the holidays you have a peaceful, happy time. I will be blogging the realities of some of mine over on my Instagram and Facebook and would love to hear how you’re doing! We got this guys!
The Cockney in the Countryside