It's that time of year again! Melbourne children are on holidays for the summer break and many parents are wondering how to manage the juggle.
With children at home more, there are lots of things that we hear families worry about - the change in routine, the settling back into school at the end; the lack of structure and therefore too many hours of screen time and of course managing to fit in all of the adult's regular commitments to work or other things.
This blog aims to offer 5 easy and practical ways to make these holidays more enjoyable - we hope it helps you.
1) MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY WHERE YOU CAN: Whilst everything in the day is different as there is no school or regular day programme, and in some cases you are in a different venue, nonetheless some things remain constant. For example, your children still need to brush their teeth, follow the rules and expectations of your home, eat meals, have a bath and go through their bedtime routine. Where you can, try to ensure that these things which happen every day, all year round, no matter where you are, occur in the same way. One idea may be to use a visual schedule for the morning and evening routines to make your child feel that there is a level of predictability to a day that can otherwise be too different.
2) ALLOW YOUR CHILDREN TO RECHARGE THEIR BATTERIES: The idea of school holidays is to allow both teachers and students the time and space to step of the treadmill of homework; academia and demands and have some time to recharge. We talk a lot about allowing children to have downtime throughout the year and it is equally important in school holidays. Children need to be given the space to have their own thoughts and time spent without scheduled demands or pressure.
3) TREATS AND SCREEN TIME: Of course the balance can also shift the opposite way when it comes to down time and holidays being " free time." Whilst it is important that holidays are a chance for children to feel that they get what they want, it should be clear that with certain things eg: extra screen time or additional sugary treats that this allowed because it is the holidays. Even within that there should still be limits. For example -you can have an hour instead of half an hour screen time a day.
4) STRUCTURED ACTIVITY EVERY DAY: The vast majority of children thrive on structure and is one of the most common reasons why parents feel lost by the end of the holidays. Having your children (no matter how much you adore them) around you all the time and complaining of being bored or not being motivated to entertain themselves can be highly frustrating. A good rule of thumb may be to ensure there is one planned activity with some structure each day. This could be a play date; a trip to a play centre they enjoy; seeing a movie or going out for lunch. This enforced structure means that there is a limit to the time that they have to fill with their own initiative!
5) THE ACTIVITIES NEED TO BENEFIT THE CHILD: Children of all ages have preferences when it comes to what they like to do. This can be tricky particularly on a family holiday when the adults in the family also need a relaxing break. The reality is though that the break will only be relaxing if your children are able to tolerate the activities you are participating in. There is nothing wrong with having a babysitter at night if you want to go to a show and your child/ren hate noise or will be overtired. At the same time, a divide and conquer approach can work well if different children want to do different things and there is more than one adult who can facilitate this.
The aim of these tips is that by the end of the school holidays, parents, children and teenagers alike feel rejuvenated, relaxed and that the family as a whole is still a happy place to be for everyone.