“So, are you looking forward to the School Holidays?” This is my favourite question to ask families as the term starts to end. Every parent replies with a range of differences and the same similarities. The similarities are usually a tone of uncertainty and an expression of resignation.
Let’s be honest, we love our children, but two weeks of them at home… we often find ourselves in survival mode.
Forget about surviving the school holidays, how do you conquer the school holidays and get the win as a parent? I have some tips that will help you conquer the school holidays, allow you to keep your sanity and ensure that your children still get to enjoy the best parts of life.
As excited about the school holidays as your children are, and as much as they may “hate” school, there are things about school your child will miss. They probably won’t recognise it, but you need to. You will find that your child will miss one or more of these things and each of your children will be different. Five main things will be: Routine, Friends, Success, Open Fields and New Opportunities.
School provides your children with a lot of routine. At school, children know what is coming up next. Teachers prepare students for each change using 5 minutes warnings or class schedules. School bells signal the start and end of things. Each child has their own desk, pencil case and lunch box. Some children really thrive with this kind of routine. They may not realise, but they really miss it. After the first few days of the school holidays, if there is no routine or warning about changes or schedule to understand what is happening they may start to feel a little lost. If your child is always asking “what are we doing…?” or “Where are we going…?” or “when are we…?” and they seem to be anxious about it, then your child is probably missing school routine.
Here are our pro tips:
- Maintain meal routines.
- Maintain a bed time or make it slightly later (30min) to make it special.
- Use 5 minute warnings before packing up, leaving the house, meal times etc.
- Talk to your children about the plan for the day and stick to it.
- If it’s not a certain plan then wait until it is certain before telling them.
- Create each child their own space that is theirs to use and sibling can’t touch. I.e. a table or room or couch.
School provides an opportunity for your children to see their friend’s every day. This is impossible to live up to on the Holidays. Some children do not care whether or not they see their friends, but for some children this is really difficult. Younger primary school children may not recognise that they miss their friends but if they always seem bored, even with a million things to do or they constantly getting in their siblings faces or their always bugging you then they are probably missing that connection.
Here are our Pro Tips:
- Spend time to connect with your child.
- Play with them (it seems obvious) but these children need it most.
- Let them help you with what you’re doing.
- Spend time talking to your child.
- Arrange for them to have a friend over for a play date.
- Be prepared for emotional aftermath of that play date.
School is a great place for children to succeed and celebrate their successes with peers, teachers and their families. As much as I personally disagree with assessing and testing children, some children thrive on being challenged and being praised when they succeed. This can be a challenge on the school holidays because things at home are not tailored to challenge children. Parents are not always good at recognising their children’s successes and worse at celebrating them. If your child is trying to take control of play and their siblings or they always want to try what you’re doing or they always want you to come and see what they have done. Then they are probably missing the challenges and accolades of school.
Here are our Pro Tips:
- Prepare challenging things for your child to do.
- Create rewards for success (success is different to behaviour)
- Praise your child’s work.
- Encourage them in their endeavours and play.
- Let them try what you are doing (within reason)
- Allow them to try things you might think they can’t do.
- Get them involved with preparing meals and cleaning projects.
- Create ways for them to celebrate and share the things they are doing with friends and family. i.e. FaceTime conversations, Take photos and videos of their work.
As confining as school may seem, it always delivers on the open fields. Recess and lunch always roll around and every child gets and opportunity to go crazy on the playground or run mad out on the oval. Most, if not all children need this opportunity. During the holidays it is possible to let a whole morning or day drift past without ever opening the back door. If your child is jumping on the couch, or running up and down the hallway or you find yourself say “stop doing that or you’re going to break something” then your child is missing the open fields that school provides.
Here are our Pro Tips:
- Take your children out into the yard.
- Create something in the yard that can challenge your child’s gross motor skills. i.e. a monkey bars, something to climb, something to jump off, something to swing on.
- Take them to a park or bike track or gym.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Go for a bike ride.
- If you’re stuck inside then search just dance on YouTube.
- If you’re stuck inside then create a maze to crawl through using couches and sheets.
- If you’re stuck inside then clear a room or garage for gross motor activities.
- Create an exercise game with pictures for star jumps, push ups, etc.
School is constantly providing your children with new opportunities. Teachers are always looking for new ways for their students to have fun and great teachers make the most mundane things in school fun and exciting. But that’s their job, and they pour a lot of knowledge, experience and effort into it. At home parents can really struggle to make things fun, particularly the mundane things. So if your child is protesting when it’s time to pack up or finding fun ways to destroy their toys or spending their time figuring out how to get things they’re not allowed to have, then they are probably missing the fun that great teachers provide.
Here are our Pro Tips:
- Pack away 70% of your children’s toys and give them access to 30% all the time
- Allow them to have a toy from the 70% when they choose toys from the 30% to put away. This way you always have something new to bring out. (it’s tidier too)
- Arts and craft are open ended, creative and easily changeable.
- Practice ways of turning mundane things into games or races like racing to pack up toys or hiding the children Morning tea snack for them to find.
- Sit down with your children and plan out some fun activities for the holidays.
- Have fun with your children.
- Spend a day changing the layout of their bedroom or the lounge room.
- Let them choose and make their own meals
There is no fix all solution to School Holiday drama and all the knowledge in the world cannot contain the inevitable power struggles and sibling conflicts that can so easily define the school holidays. But understanding each of your children and preparing yourself with relevant skills and experience will help you to conquer each unique day as it comes. To finish, I want to share a few tips that are relevant to all children.
Screen time can be your No. 1 enemy or your greatest ally. It may create peace and calm in the moment, but it always produces chaos in the end. Your School Holiday experience can almost be summed up by the balance you strike between the desire to have the peace and quiet that screen time promises and the chaos and emotional turmoil that it inevitably produces. Firstly, screen time does not fill any of your child’s needs. Screen Time only exacerbates their needs.
The truth is… screen time, fills our need for peace and quiet and space and sanity. Then, when it’s over, it just as quickly takes those things away. So how do you make screen time your ally? You use it like a weapon. You use it to very deliberately fill your present need understanding that you will need to give back two fold.
- Make screen time a treat or reward, don’t let it be an everyday thing.
- Use it to complete tasks that can’t be done with children running around freely. Like mopping the floors or having a nap when you’re exhausted.
- Give children a 5 minute warning when screen time is finishing.
- Limit how much you use screen time. The trade off is rarely worth the effort.
- Don’t start or finish the day with screen time. Letting your children watch TV when they wake up is a rookie mistake. Prepare stuff for them to do when they wake up i.e. Lego or drawing. Or wake up at the same time as your children and take them outside with your coffee.
- Enjoy an end of the week family movie for some family bonding time.
- Use YouTube and game consoles for Exercise and dancing instead of shows or games.
- Parents!! Don’t sit on your own screen all day. Put your phone away, it is only exacerbating your needs!!
The School Holidays can be scary. But, with some effort, the School Holidays can seem effortless. Spend some time and think about what your child may be missing about school. Do they miss routine or connection with friends, do they miss the challenges and accolades or the freedom of open fields, do they miss the new opportunities or does screen time in your house need to be scrutinised. Don’t just survive the School Holidays, counting the days until you can send your children back. Get deliberate about it and conquer the School Holidays so that your whole family can enjoy the best parts of life and you can keep your sanity.