How do you feel about the summer holidays?

As children (and as teachers) us Youth Fairies looked forward to these a bit like we look forward to birthdays and Christmas!  We were on countdown. But whereas Christmas and Birthdays are just one day the summer holidays are many, many days. In fact there are…..

45 days – just over 6 weeks!

It can feel like a long time to fill and to juggle the needs of our families.  There has been much conversation (and not just since the pandemic and the ‘lost hours of learning’) as to why and if we should continue to have these long summer holidays – but whatever opinion you hold, this year, at least, those six weeks are nearly upon us.

Since March 2020, the routine that we usually take for granted has been upended with lockdowns, school closures, homeworking, and intermittent self-isolation and while there have been some benefits it has taken its toll on many of us.

The routine that our children usually have in place throughout term time has been missing and instead they have had uncertainty and inconsistency – which we know can lead to anxiety!

So, how can we set up good routines that create a positive summer holiday for our families?

? Including your children in your decision making for the summer will give them a level of control that they may not have felt for some time. This is of as much value to our children as it is to us.  Of course, as parents, we can create healthy boundaries and parameters around the choices that we offer to them.

? Good routines create good habits which also prepare our children for adulthood.  Routines are good for our mental health and, when we factor in rest time and down time, give our brains the opportunity to daydream and be creative.  Routines do not mean that every waking moment needs to be full of activity or be over-stimulating – free time is as important and needs its place. It is important to remember that we are all different, parents and children, and we will have preferences that work better for us.

?  Consider spending time as a family ‘designing’ your summer – agreeing what structure your days might look like.  This will vary from family to family.  You might have childcare set up, day trips or holidays away, screen time expectations, family chores, etc.

? Even our teenagers will appreciate knowing, for example, that on Tuesday and Wednesday they are not expected to be anywhere until after lunch and therefore are free to spend the morning in bed, watching TikTok and slowly immerging from their caves (bedrooms) but that the flip side is that on Thursday you all need to be out of the house by 10 because you are all visiting grandparents. Although, it might be helpful to be aware that teenagers’ body clocks naturally shift to make them tired later in the evening and so, to get the 8-10 hours of sleep they need, they will likely sleep later – so a trip to grandparents (or anywhere at all) is likely be met with more enthusiasm if it doesn’t require getting out of bed before 10 or 11!

Some of us will prefer routine and structure and some will prefer to be spontaneous and go with the flow.  No matter, our preference, there is benefit to both of these approaches and the challenge over the summer is to have the flexibility to create a good balance of both.

Here are some basic routines which will help provide structure and foundation for your summer fun to be built upon:

? Keep to consistent wake and bedtimes – this can be difficult over the summer holidays and while there may be occasional special circumstances (like England being in a Cup Final for the first time in 55 years!) consistent bedtime and wake times support good mental health and have a positive effect on mood and behaviour (that goes for us as parents too)!

? Keep to regular meals and snack times – this might not seem important but there is good reason why the word “hangry” has been added to the Oxford dictionary. A drop in blood sugar levels can have a negative effect on our children’s moods and behaviour (from toddlers to teenagers). Getting your children involved in meal planning and prepping can also be a positive activity and habit to create over the summer holidays.

? Plan free time – this is as important as all the fun activities you might want to plan together. Down time gives the brain some time to relax and destress, to process and to be creative.

? Plan opportunity to help and contribute – helping, feeling useful and responsible can help to develop our children’s self-esteem and develop independence (it can also be really helpful in a busy household to share some of the workload).

Lisa Blackwell

The Youth Fairy, Lisa, shares her experience. 

“I have a 7-year-old daughter at home, she’s generally a laid-back go with flow personality but, like most children, if we have plans, she really needs us to keep them, but she copes well with some flexibility.  Both my husband and I are working from home and so we have some childcare in place for over the holidays.  In 2019 we started a new tradition of creating a calendar together which is stuck on the fridge.  We agreed certain things that we would do over the summer and then worked out together how we would fit these in – previous activities included playdates at the park, picnics, walks, sleepovers with grandparents, a trip to London, our annual UK holiday  – and amongst these were days at holiday clubs (childcare) and pyjama days (rest days).  This year my daughter has started listing the things she would like to do and top of her list is swimming as this has been something that we haven’t done in Covid times.  We’ve also added a new list to our fridge and this includes expectations for the day including getting herself dressed, practicing piano, making her own bed, etc – along with additional optional jobs that can earn her some pocket money for her summer holiday.  We are also going to discuss again what healthy screen time looks like and agree the rules for the summer and build in trips to the library to encourage her in her newfound love of reading.”

However you decide to approach your summer holiday – have fun.  Let go of any desire for perfection, it doesn’t exist – do what you can and enjoy the summer in the way that works best for you and your family.

And remember to take time for yourself as parents too –  including a quiet 10 minutes to check out our Parent Pad blogs each week where you’ll find tips, tools and resources to help you through the summer.