It sounds great in theory: three glorious months of freedom from school for the kids, time to play outside, climb trees until sundown and generally do what children do. But the reality is different and for many parents it’s a stressful time as they try to keep their children under control and at the same time, occupied. This is especially difficult if parents are working. Aoife Lee of www.parentsupport.ie/ agrees that summer holidays can bring to the fore a number of issues for parents, and not just in terms of childcare.
“For many families, routines become more relaxed in the summer,” she says. As a result, kids go to bed later, which may still mean early mornings for the younger children. This in turn can lead to irritable behaviour over the course of the following day.” On top of this, siblings spend more time together which can trigger arguments, and so parents find themselves acting as referees. “We feel that we need to keep the children occupied to keep their boredom at bay. At the same time, we want to stimulate them. Striking that balance can be tricky,” adds Aoife. So what, as a parent, can you do to make parenting that little bit easier during the summer holidays?
Strike a Balance
Modern children tend to lead structured lives with much of their free time taken up with classes, camps and playdates. However it’s important for them to have free time to explore and to use their imaginations. “Let them explore for themselves. They will find lots of things to keep them busy,” says Aoife. “But don’t forget that feeling bored is ok too. It’s a positive feeling as they learn how to entertain themselves.”
Keep Some Structure
People of all ages need routine, even during the summer holidays – so attempt to keep some structure in your child’s day. “Routine creates predictability and consistency, which is important and particularly for younger children,” says Aoife. “One idea is to keep meal times and bedtimes the same and structure your day around these.”
Keep Boundaries in Place
Although it’s important to allow children to be independent and make their own choices, it’s also essential to keep boundaries in place – and this applies to the summertime as much as any other time of year. “Providing boundaries for children creates expectations for them. They know what happens if they step outside them,” says Aoife.
Give the Children a Choice
Wondering how to entertain the kids? Ask them what they’d like to do. Giving them a choice helps with their decision-making process. “Allow your child to be involved in decisions about what you do together,” says Aoife. “This gives them an element of healthy control. “When we’re the decision-maker all the time, children seek other ways of gaining control, usually through their behaviour.”
Do Something Different
Children love the experience of doing something new – and it doesn’t have to be complicated or cost the earth. “Pack a picnic and rain gear and choose a park you wouldn’t normally go to for the novelty value,” suggests Aoife. “Or hop on any form of public transport and choose a destination – children always love an adventure!”
Look After Yourself
With the kids at home, under your feet all day, it’s easy for parents to get stressed out and feel frazzled at this time of year. It’s important therefore to be kind to yourself. “Set your own expectations, be realistic in what you can do at home, and take some time out for yourself to avoid getting frazzled,” says Aoife. “Recharging your own batteries keeps all the families energy levels balanced so it’s very important.” For more information visit parentsupport.ie