It’s nearly here – that gorgeous six-week break at the end of the school year. It’s a time I look forward to SOOO MUCH!! I LOVE the extra time with my little people… oh, and that break from the school-day routine!!
But have you ever had the experience where the IDEA of school holidays has been better than how they actually panned out? How do we make the BEST of that time, so that it remains something we all look forward to? How do we carve out space for making memories and sharing in joy together?
Ideas for Thriving through the Holidays
1. Remember the parent you want to BE
Life is so busy, right? We get so busy DOING, it’s easy to lose track of BEING. But you’re making time to (skim)read this right now, hey? I give you “permission” to race through the rest of this piece – heck, skip the whole damn lot – if you will do this for me now: At the end of this paragraph, sit back and close your eyes. Take a couple of breaths to pause and centre yourself. Then ask “When I’m at my best, what kind of parent do I want to BE?”
Don’t rush this part.
If you get caught up in what kind of parent you ARE, or all the shoulds and should nots, notice your busy mind, and ask yourself again – When I’m at my best, what kind of parent do I want to BE?
Chances are, your list isn’t too different from mine. The kind of words that show up on my list include: loving, patient, kind, compassionate, playful, reliable, trustworthy, available… it goes on, you get the idea.
Here’s the next question to ask yourself: “Is it possible for me to also BE these things when I am (or my kids are!) at my worst?”
The reality is children sometimes press our buttons; and sometimes really shit things happen and life has no damned pause button. But if I’m honest, I can still choose to be loving, patient, kind, etc, even when I’m angry, tired, hurt, or frustrated. What if you choose to parent in line with how you want to BE, no matter what is going on around you? What would that be like for you? For your kids? What would that help you bring to the experience of school holidays right now?
Maybe you could write those BEING words on a list – stick it up on your bathroom mirror, or somewhere to remind you from time to time. Maybe you could set a reminder in your phone to prompt you periodically “right here, right now, what action can I take that is in the direction of these values?” Of course, this doesn’t just pertain to school holidays, but it’s as good a time as any to strategically plan/review parenting for a moment.
2. Prompt, notice, acknowledge, celebrate and reward the behaviour you DO want (and not the behaviour you don’t).
If you’re taking your kids somewhere, let them know what behaviour you expect of them (rather than the list of behaviours you don’t want), and when you see it happen, let them know you’ve noticed. A typical spiel in our car goes like this: “I’m so excited that we’re doing ____ today; and what I really love is the way you two always use your manners and are so polite when we’re out and about. I love the way you do good listening, and I feel so proud of you when I see you using your good sharing and play skills. I’m looking forward to your usual exquisitely good behaviour whilst we’re out today. It’s because of your usual excellent behaviour that we get to do things like this so often.” Yep, I’m wordy 😉 – and there’s a follow-up in the car on the way home: “Kids, thanks so much for you awesome behaviour today – I noticed this, and this, and this. I feel so proud of the way you did this, and I especially noticed you doing that even though it was difficult. The behaviour you demonstrated today makes me want to plan more of these types of activities together.” I’ve written more previously on this topic here.
3. Not all routines need a holiday
Many young children thrive best when they can predict what comes next. School terms are full of predictable routines – both within the classroom, and out of school commitments. The break from the monotony of making school lunches; being able to stay in PJs until 10am; or relaxing around bedtime routines can be what some parents (me, pick me) particularly look forward to. It’s okay to relax and change routines in the holidays – just be aware that some kids still need some structure around this. They don’t always have the insight to say “my life lacks predictability right now and I’m feeling anxious” – so you may cop it behaviourally instead. Talk with you child about what the plan for the next day is, and if they need it, give them a visual reminder. If you have a few days that are more chaotic / ad hoc / full of people / extra late nights, etc, give your child some grace to not be at their behavioural best.
4. Balance, balance, balance – and boredom!
I don’t have the perfect equation, I’m afraid, for how to balance out how many activities to DO, how much money to SPEND, how many places to GO, whilst still providing DOWN TIME to rest and recover… Here’s what research shows, though: boredom makes room for creativity to flourish; and unstructured time allows kids to learn about setting and achieving their own goals. If your children tell you they’re bored, this is an awesome opportunity to do… Nothing At All, and see what comes next!
5. Over to you!
I learn SO MUCH from the awesome mothers and fathers around me – we only get one shot at this, I love that we can all learn from each other. Please will you share with me, and the other people having a read, what YOU do to make a success of your school holidays?
I too LOVE the school holidays. It feels like such an opportunity to refresh and reconnect, especially if that has slipped towards the end of school term as often happens in our house as we all get worn out from the school term! I love that idea Tiff to write down my parenting values so I can check in – I think I might do a list with the kids and out up on our big blackboard what we value as a family, as a good reminder to us all (plus I have a four year old who is great at reminding me about how she expects me to behave as a parent!).
In our house, we love the chance to “do nothing” – which really means doing whatever shows up as fun for the day, from cooking to painting to swimming or just the kids dragging out all the toys they’ve forgotten about. I make sure to have a couple of unstructured days following a big day out, as it seems to strike the balance we need to make sure we have enough rest too. We also do something similar to Carmel, and create a list together which we check and mark off.
Most of all, I take so much much joy from watching my three kids have the chance to reconnect (as two are at school), create and let their imagination run wild, and on the rare occasion the say they’re “bored” (a term they learnt from school!) they’re greeted with my response: fantastic! And then suddenly they’re not….
I remember coming back from school holidays and asking how other kids’ holidays were, to which most replied, “boring”, and not in a good way. This always surprised me because I never thought mine were boring, if we became bored we (my bro and I, or a friend and I) would do something to relieve our boredom. Not sure if that’s what you were getting at with your boredom topic, but I just didn’t want to be bored, so I rarely was. Things don’t _seem_ quite so easy to solve when you’re an adult…
You’re right, our childhoods are such rich mining grounds for “what works well”. We were raised in simpler times – and there was so much that was GOOD about that 🙂
I love all holidays, too! Here’s what I do. I ask my girls to write a list of what they want to do on the holidays; in the long summer hols say 5 each, in the short ones it’s only 3 each. And I hold to their list. From past experience it is usually things like: go to the beach, a picnic at the river, see a movie, go out for dinner, make cupcakes, have a sleepover at Nanna’s (love that one), etc. They love ticking things off their list. Not all things cost money. And they feel attended and valued when we check their list and choose something to do.
Carmel, I LOVE this!!
Coincidence that you reposted this today – here we are two years later, and it was only yesterday afternoon I asked the kids to write out their holiday wish list for 2016! Amongst the list is Perth Zoo, movies (Rogue One I hope), sleepover at Nanna’s, and Rottnest (already booked an age ago). So we are set to do some things they want and have lots of free time for them to get bored and get creative. Bring on the holidays I say. I love them.