10 Tips for Surviving the Summer Holiday!
Six weeks- yes six weeks with the children off school- how are you going to thrive - and not just survive...read on...
10 tips for surviving thriving as a family in the school summer holidays
Six weeks. Six whole weeks... or maybe even more depending on which school your children go to.
It sounds like a long time, but it will pass all too quickly (honestly it will!). Finding a way to use the holidays so that children can relax but also learn some important life skills will help you thrive rather than just survive the holidays.
Are you looking forward to no school runs and lazy days, or are you feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to balance other work commitments with everything you need to get done and would like to do with your family over the holiday period?
We asked Coventry parents and foster carers to share their top tips to get through the summer break.
1. Plan your time out, and involve the children
It’s not easy to juggle work and the school holidays, but by planning out what’s happening each day you have something to look forward to, and it also helps to set expectations. Stick the planner on the wall so everyone can see what’s going on. It can help with that feeling of a loss of routine, and it can also help children to understand and appreciate what you need to do – especially managing to juggle other work with fun things and family time- it teaches children about compromising, commitments and prioritising- all key life skills!
Brainstorm ‘things to do’ ideas between you. This can get the children feeling excited and involved. Write everything down, go crazy!
“We put a massive piece of paper on the wall with ‘this holiday I would like to…’ in the middle. Everyone can write ideas on. It can range from the everyday ‘play on my scooter’ to the more adventurous ‘climb a mountain’ or mindful ‘watch a sunset’ or educational ‘geek stuff’ or even ‘eat chocolate’!” - Sarah
Tempting as it can be for some super organised parents and carers to micro-manage the holidays, try to rein yourself in. Try not to overplan everything and map out every second of every day because you won’t enjoy it, and it’s a sure fire recipe for stress! Children and young people need to learn how to manage and make their own choices and decisions too.
Include some downtime. Make some time to chill, relax and recharge the batteries too, yours and the kids! For those children who are at school, it may have been a really busy term, so a PJ/DVD day could be just what everyone needs. Sometimes it's nice to just to see where the day leads.
“Just go with the flow. Kids need a rest after the relentlessness of school, SATs, end of term tests, exams and after-school activities. Laze about for a few weeks. Let them enjoy it while they can.” - Katy
Which brings us nicely onto our next tip...
2. Embrace the boredom
What are you saying? Embrace boredom? But the cries of “I’m bored” are like a recurring parental nightmare on permanent hyperloop.
Yes - we feel your pain, we’ve been there (still there now!) - but bite the bullet and let the kids be bored now and again, it’s actually good for them. Boredom can encourage imagination, resourcefulness and creativity to kick in, they might surprise themselves!
“We saw an idea on the internet and we now have a ‘boredom jar’ at home. We put ideas for activities in there - like lego challenges, do a jigsaw, doodle, write a funny poem, find a bug in the garden - but also jobs that need doing around the house, so when they say “I’m bored” they get to pick something from the jar. it’s a bit of a gamble for them, but it’s also seen as a game. It seems to work!” Scott
Some chill out time - which may be perceived as ‘boredom’ - is really important for little ones (and big ones too) and particularly for children and young people who have experienced difficulties this can be a great opportunity for building attachment.
3. Set some ground rules and talk about feelings
With the onset of the school holidays, the routine of school life has gone, and school friends too, so children might be feeling a little stressed, missing friends and routines and will more than likely ‘push back’ and challenge the boundaries.
“The end of term and start of the school holidays is always a bit ‘tricky’. We call it ‘end-of-term-itus in our house!’” Kirsty
It might help to set some family rules around screen time, bedtime, helping round the house and so on and write them down so everyone can see and agree about what needs doing - and when.
This can help encourage collaboration and decision making and when you have got your mutually agreed plan in place it is easier to stick to. If (when) things go awry you can refer to the agreement… “but we agreed that…” - and it works both ways, children can hold you to account too!
If you have older children or teenagers it can be really important to factor in some additional personal space/time for them to be, well, teenagers! This is best managed alongside your own needs too- so if you need them to be at a family event or special occasion or to help with other children or pets it is worthwhile making this time reliant upon time boundaries or reminding them of any commitments that they have. They can factor commitments into their planning (if they do plan!), or at least manage their expectations.
Fostered and adopted children in particular may find ‘endings’ and ‘beginnings’ quite stressful and difficult to cope with. As social worker Charlotte Jenkins explains “any change can be fraught with difficulty because insecurity can lead to hyper vigilance and stress… These children and young people don’t take for granted that an ending will be followed by a positive new beginning.” Children and young people who are looked after may worry about school holidays for this very reason. Leaving routines and friends may trigger feelings of loss and separation and extra support may be needed to manage the transition from school to holiday - and back again. Other top tips include making sure they feel safe, and that you as a parent or carer are available, that you set expectations, and role model and encourage children and young people to talk about feelings, listen, and be empathic.
4. Drop the guilt and give yourself a break
There’s no requirement in parenting ‘law’ that you have to be a wonderwoman or superman. So don’t be.
Try and set aside some time for yourself too. Tired children + tired parents and carers is not the best combination!
Drop the guilt, summer holidays are a prime time for working parents to feel guilty. It doesn’t achieve anything, just be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
5. Expect the unexpected!
Even with a plan in place there will be mishaps and upsets! Emotions, siblings being siblings, and the push back/mini-rebellion will inevitably mean things will sometimes go awry. Don’t worry, use it as an opportunity for children to learn and develop.
Allowing some (managed) risk taking gives children a chance to learn from mistakes, and they can only do this through experience. For older ones, consider letting go and maybe giving them some more age-appropriate freedoms to develop trust and responsibility within agreed boundaries.
Keep talking! You can always alter the plan or adapt the boundaries if they aren’t working for whatever reason. It’s not set in stone!
6. You don’t need to break the bank!
It’s easy for children to assume the bank of mum and dad - or the magic money hole in the wall - will meet the cost of all activities, but it can soon add up, especially with multiple children in the mix. Get children to help plan activities so they understand what things cost.
Be honest from the outset about how much you can afford on holiday activities. Encourage children to suggest things they can do on a set budget, for example, get them to work out what you can all do for under £10, challenge them to come up with a list of things that don’t cost anything. Maybe they could earn some money for jobs around the house that they could then spend on what they want.
There are lots of things you can do without spending a penny, or on a limited budget. Here’s a few ideas…
Get out and about in your local parks armed with a picnic and make a day of it! We are lucky in Coventry that there are many parks nearby and the countryside is only a short drive or ride away.
http://www.coventry.gov.uk/parklocations - why not explore a new one?
Ride bikes and scooters, build dens, explore, become a nature detective, try scavenger or treasure hunts, run, hold your own back garden olympics, set up obstacle courses. Ball games are always a winner and a good way to run off some energy.
Why not grow your own or get crafty? Pound shops are a fantastic source of art and crafts materials.
Head to the library and lose yourself in a good book. And there’s lots on too, from rhyme times to chatterbooks to code clubs http://www.coventry.gov.uk/whatsonlibraries. This year's summer reading challenge theme is Space Chase. Find out more: https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk.
Check out local libraries, museums and galleries to see what activities are available. Often they are free or inexpensive. There’s a list of some of the ones in Coventry at the end of this blog.
Vouchers, supermarket tokens, discount vouchers and canny use of free offers can reduce the cost of day trips. Use the internet and shop around!
7. Sleep for health and energy
It’s easy to use the holidays as an excuse to stay up later than usual, but this might not help in the long term as lack of quality sleep can affect emotions and energy - for grown-ups too! Balancing the additional freedom that the holidays can allow with the need for enough sleep for everyone can need a bit of thought.
“We build in early nights twice a week so we don't have tired tempers.” Pauline
Earlier nights on the promise of a later one are probably more likely to receive a positive response that a ‘catch up’ early night- when the perceived reward has been and gone!
We know that bedtime routines can help with encouraging good quality sleep- so maybe pick a book with a chapter read each earlier bedtime as an incentive to get ready and into bed at the desired time
8. Share the load
Friends and family are a fantastic resource not to be under-estimated in the holidays. Try to arrange meeting up with your children's school friends, six weeks can seem like eternity when you are little!
Swap the children. Trust us on this one! If you have more than one child, then ‘swapping’ one of them for someone else's for a day can ensure a calmer social dynamic, for a while anyway! They see it as a treat, and it changes things up! The divide and conquer method can also works!
Need childcare? Consider reciprocal arrangements with friends, or ask family to help out. Don’t worry about asking for favours.
“I used to really worry about asking people to have the kids, even for just a few hours. It took me a while to realise that actually people don’t mind, and I try to pay back the favour when I can. Sometimes you need to ask for help and be prepared to take offers of help, you aren’t failing!” - Ruth
“Sometimes the more kids you have around the house playing, the easier it actually is as they amuse themselves.” - Jon
If you need to book a holiday club, do it as early as possible- and if possible consider when your child’s friends might be attending as well so it can double as a catch up (or if you can identify possible cost cutting shared childcare on those days- sometimes even better!) There are plenty around, although they vary tremendously in terms of cost and what they offer. Coventry Sports Centres have a children’s activity programme which runs throughout the school holidays and there are also lots of school based holiday clubs might also have an advantage of a catch up with school friends and a reminder to children that they are still part of the school community with known staff and children going along.
9. Plan a treat for the end of the holidays
Choose somewhere or something everyone wants to do and plan it in for the end of the holiday. Why? Well, it gives everyone something to look forward to, and acts as a marker that the holidays are over and that everyone will be going back to school or work. It could also be used as a final celebration of the holidays and if appropriate a reward for good behaviour during the holidays.
10. Don’t be afraid to use the tactics that you know work!
At the end of the day, we are all different, children and adults- we have different coping strategies and find our own unique ways to survive thrive through the summer. Don’t be afraid to use the tactics that you know work!
Please share your ideas with us about what works, places to go, tips and tricks.
Enjoy your holidays!
Making memories to last a lifetime
What are your favourite childhood memories of the school holidays? It’s often the little things that make the biggest impressions on us.
We know of many children who are having their first ever holiday away this year whilst living within fostering families. Whether it is Skegness, Spain or Singapore, holidays can make a real difference to our lives - having different experiences, recharging the system, and building memories that last a lifetime.
We need more people to consider fostering and make a huge difference to children's lives - and their own.
Want to find out more? Call the team today on 024 7683 2828 or enquire online http://www.coventry.gov.uk/foster.
Together we can give children a childhood.
Useful links for things to do:
Things to do and days out in Coventry: http://www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/things-to-do/coventry
Coventry Family Information Service Directory: https://coventry.fsd.org.uk
Visit Coventry and Warwickshire: http://www.visitcoventryandwarwickshire.co.uk/things-to-see-and-do
Tripadvisor - Coventry: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g186403-Activities-Coventry_West_Midlands_England.html
Some ideas of places to go in Coventry
Please check websites to see what is on, times, cost (if any) and whether booking is required.
Belgrade Theatre: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/
Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve: http://www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/brandon-marsh
Coventry Parks: http://www.coventry.gov.uk/parklocations
Coventry Transport Museum: http://www.transport-museum.com/events There are lots of new activities includig those for older children
Electric Railway Museum: http://electricrailwaymuseum.co.uk/ This is closing soon, so may be your last chance to see the trains.
Fargo Village: http://www.fargovillage.co.uk/ There’s usually something interesting going on at Fargo Village!
Lower Precinct Coventry: http://www.lowerprecinct.com/trends/whats-on - the beach is coming back!
Lunt Roman Fort: http://www.luntromanfort.org/ The Lunt Fort is open to the public during school holidays with make and take activities.
Pets at Home small animal workshops: learn how to care for small animals, free during school holidays. Booking required. http://community.petsathome.com/workshops/
Warwick Arts Centre: https://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/whats-on/list/family some of the shows on offer. Beyond the Arts Centre, why not investigate the sculpture trail?