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Surviving or thriving the summer holidays - A parents guide.

In last month’s blog I wrote about the health benefits of a holiday. August is traditionally the month most families take their summer break, it’s also when us parents are confronted with the big question, how on earth are we going to cope over the next five or six weeks?

While School offers safe, structured routine and regular childcare, a change to the norm can provide new benefits. These include enjoying the occasional lie in, no longer do we need to get up at silly o’clock to catch the 7.26 school bus! Nor will we need to do any more school runs for the foreseeable future, or endure arguments about homework/study and whether enough of either has been done to get through the dreaded end of year exams. Yet, the long summer ahead can still evoke a sense of dread for some parents.

Most of us are not in a position to stop working over the summer holidays and at times it can feel like a juggling act as we try to imagine how we are going to get through it all without having a nervous breakdown.

As a single mum, running my own busy counselling and psychotherapy practice, I am only too aware that not only do my children need to spend time with me, but so do my clients. I’m pretty sure neither would be particularly happy if I announced that I was unavailable for the whole month of August, as appealing as that now sounds.

So armed with an abundance of literature on how best to manage the long stretch ahead, the conclusion I’ve arrived at is the need to become more organised!

Organisation, despite sounding like as a dirty word to the spontaneous fun loving individuals amongst us, is perhaps a good way of developing our sense of control and calm, in order to potentially thrive as opposed to just ‘getting through’ each day, which lets be honest, is another phrase for survival.

So if the thought of thriving conjures up for you, as it does for me, all things healthy and flourishing, what do we need to do to achieve it?

Apparently thriving is linked to control, but not in a way that we need to control everything; confused? Seemingly some people have a strong need for control, however it’s these people that are often feeling most out of control. Unfortunately once they feel they then need to control everything around them, it can lead to perfectionism and additional stress.

So perhaps what we should be aiming for is a more balanced approach, one where we feel well prepared, e.g. we have a plan, but one where we have some control over it, as opposed to the other way round, it controlling us. This will result in helping us feel calmer and more relaxed, in the knowledge that things don’t always have to go exactly to schedule, but are at least on course.

So how does this apply to the school holidays? Here are some basic step-by-step suggestions to start you off:

1) Assuming you have some alterative child-care facilities in place, schedule in work time alongside dedicated family time, this means that our children know what’s going on and when. Children are very resourceful and will naturally find things to do in their free time if they know their parents are going to be busy.

2) Involve our children in making decisions. This will not only make them feel empowered, but will help them feel a sense of responsibility and self-worth. It may seem obvious, but with that follows good behaviour. While it’s not always possible to involve our children in everything that is happening, it is a good idea, where possible, to allow them to offer their input. This not only gives them a voice and builds self-esteem, but also promotes a sense of teamwork, which is the essence of a harmonious family life.

3) Manage expectations! If there’s a plan, there’s much less need to have to say NO when we are asked several times within a day if they can go somewhere we aren’t able to arrange. This also (in my experience) reduces ‘parent guilt.’

4) Families who share everyday activities together as well as holidays or day trips form strong, emotional bonds. When children feel valued by their parents, they feel more positive about themselves. Reconnecting with our children is so important as it not only teaches them life lessons, but also helps us all live in the moment and that’s got to be fun.

5) Less stress! If everyone gets to do what he or she want at different stages in the week then we all live happily ever after!

So for those of us that want to do more than just survive the summer holiday, let’s get a little more organised and see for ourselves the benefits of what a thriving family life can do for us all.

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