Plan your summer holidays with the children now!
For many parents, the thought of the long summer holidays is… daunting. After the past twelve months in and out of lockdown six weeks with the children full time feels like a stress train approaching full steam.
The key is to get organised. In Plan your summer holidays with the children now! we’ll look at all the planning and practical steps you can take to make the summer holidays the relaxing break you all need. It’s time to plan your summer holidays with the children now.
First, let’s look at what you and your children need this summer.
To feel safe
It’s been a destabilising year. All of us have been shaken about by government restrictions, health worries, shut off from friends and family. So one of the most important pillars of this summer holiday is safety and stability.
Safety comes from boundaries. From knowing where you stand. From knowing that you have loved ones looking out for you. We’ll look at how to create that sense of safety for you and your children.
Once we feel safe, we can relax. You might be worried about how your children are faring academically after all the lockdowns. But the number one thing they need right now (and teachers agree) is to play. To unwind after a year of stress and isolation.
You and your children are a team. Everyone’s needs need to be met – and that includes yours. When you plan for the summer it’s essential you look after yourself as well as your small people.
Now let’s look at how to make it happen.
Break it down
Hopefully, you have agreed the split of childcare arrangements with your ex-partner. If not, do it now, don’t leave it until the last minute! Get everything agreed in writing, whether that’s between yourselves or with the help of a mediator. Mediation isn’t just for crisis talks, or for sorting financials. A family mediator can help with any aspect of parenting, separation and divorce. You can find out more about family mediation here.
It’s important both for you and the children to know in advance where they will be and when. Once you know you can start to plan. Break the holidays into week-long chunks and consider each one in turn. That will help you start to tame the summer holiday beast.
At the start of the holidays your children or teenagers are likely to be exhausted. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. Most people have found themselves feeling tired, sometimes without really knowing why. But there’s a very good reason why. We have all been in crisis mode – worried about loved ones, waiting for the next announcement, not in control of our plans.
Research into employment psychology has found time and time again that autonomy is vital for wellbeing and health. Having the freedom to prioritise for yourself and be in control of your own time is key to employee wellbeing, and productivity too.
What does this have to do with children and summer holidays, you ask? Well, it’s also the case that we all do better with a degree of freedom and autonomy. And that’s what we’ve been short of over the past fifteen months.
So try to build in some ‘splat’ days. Days for your children to just flop, and let it all go. They might stay in PJs the entire day. They might be glued to the TV or their Switch. Maybe they might want crisps and haribo all day long. Let it be. Have a few days when anything (within reason!) goes.
Plan a rhythm
Once you’ve decompressed, it’s worth putting in a gentle rhythm to your weeks. Just as we need autonomy, we need boundaries to feel safe. The ‘anything goes’ philosophy can be exhausting for everyone if it’s forever (even if your children tell you otherwise!).
You’ll know what’s best for your family so I’m not going to suggest hard and fast rules. But, remember, you need to set a balance that suits all of you. Your children might want to spend each and every day indoors but you know that will drive you stir-crazy. So set limits. You don’t need to have strict rules. But setting gentle principles so that everyone knows where they stand is good for all of you.
If your children are old enough you could come up with a rhythm together. Include whatever feels important for you all. You might want to consider whether:
- everyone needs to be dressed by a certain time
- you want to get outside everyday
- you have specific ‘treat’ days (when you get ice creams, or pizza night, for example)
- there are household tasks everyone needs to complete each day
- you will set aside a block of time in the week to work projects or homework so it’s not a last-minute stress before September.
Get the basics of your week into place, then you can start to plug the gaps.
Create a wishlist
Once you’ve covered the basics and got your family rhythm agreed, you can get onto the fun stuff. Make sure you set realistic boundaries with this – whether they are financial or practical! Then invite your children to come up with ideas for how they want to spend their summer holiday time.
Often we get caught up thinking that we need to provide magical Disney moments at great expense. But children can surprise us. What’s important to them might not be what you expect. If at all possible, with negotiation if needed, include something for everyone in each week of your holiday time together.
And don’t forget to factor your own wishes in too. You and your children are a team – and you have the right to do things you enjoy just as much as they do. This summer, more than any other, you need the opportunity to relax. I talk more about the importance of relaxing this summer on this blog.
If you need inspiration to get the ideas flowing, especially if budgets are tight, here’s a starter for ten:
- camping – in a den inside, or in the garden if not actually going away
- a bake-off, or cooking theme
- a film day
- try a new local park each week
- a new bus journey each week
- garden Olympics – set up races and obstacles courses in the garden, or get together with friends to do it in the park
- stargazing and marshmallows
- a dawn chorus walk with hot chocolate
- a home spa day with face packs and bubble bath (not just for girls!)
Want more tips?
Did you know I host a podcast? The Six-Minute Divorce Podcast covers everything you need to know about divorce in bitesize six minute chunks. I share advice on everything from your divorce financials to how to support your children through divorce. And there are episodes all about children and stress.
You can check it out here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com