PRACTICAL TIPS FOR SUMMER PARENTING
We all know that this summer, things are going to be a little different and there will definitely be new challenges for families. The pandemic will continue to affect what we can and cannot do, therefore as parents/carers, we need to give some thought as to the ‘shape’ of the summer holidays. Our children will be out of school soon and it is such a good idea to ready ourselves for the long weeks ahead.
I’m not talking necessarily about spending lots of money on non-stop entertainment (although that’s fine too!) but rather more on ‘how’ you will structure the days & weeks as children definitely thrive on structure. Again, I don’t mean a rigid routine that feels just like school, rather more a gentle and flexible direction to each day.
So, here are our tips and advice for how to achieve just that!
- Schedule some fun. …this is where you sit down with your family and everyone joins in giving their ideas for some fun activities: badminton in the garden, build/put up a tent, picnics/BBQ’s, horse riding, cycling, swimming, play park (and for the inevitable bad weather days!: cooking, painting/drawing, put on a play, build a den, make up a dance routine!) and so on. Plot the activities on a calendar/planner so your children know when to look forward to each adventure. It could also be fun for younger children to have their own planner/calendar that they can decorate themselves and even if writing in it isn’t possible, they can draw an activity on the relevant date instead. Some of the ideas you will be able to do on a daily basis (such as activities in the garden/at home or cycling to the park) others can be an occasional treat, but the main objective is for children to know that time has been set aside for doing activities together either with you or their child carer/Nanny.
- Resist the urge to overschedule. …this is SO important. Children need unstructured down time and also time to experience boredom and not be over-stimulated. School, particularly this year, has been so challenging and whilst they will appreciate some structure to their day, they should not feel hounded to always be somewhere or doing something (a lot of parents could also take the same advice and get over their FOMO: ‘ fear of missing out’)
- Encourage your child to try something new this summer. …this is a wonderful time and opportunity for them to experiment and have a go! Whilst many classes, events & camps may not be going ahead this summer due to Covid-19, there are still ways your child can uncover a new skill or passion. Find out if there is anything they would like to try and check local resources and on line for what is available near you. New activities encourage brain development and build creativity. But remember, don’t go overboard in scheduling activities!
Limit technology. … When they are bored, try not to let screen time swallow up all of their time. It is very easy to fall into the trap of technology becoming the babysitter. Where you can (particularly with younger children) try and replace screen time with something like a daily reading session instead – you or their carer/Nanny could read ‘with’ them or ‘to’ them and encourage ‘story time’ or play games whereby you make up your own stories – each person contributing to the plot as the story unfolds/evolves. Let their imagination take over!
Create structure and set boundaries….even though you want to create a relaxed and uncluttered summer holidays, it is also important to remember the necessity of routines. Yes, children need to be free of the tight structure of the school year, but they also need the security of knowing that some things will remain the same. For example try, as much as possible to keep to the same bedtime routine (with a little flexibility here and there!), also try to maintain family meal times as much as possible as they create a focus through the day and are the best time for family communication and if you always walk the dog every afternoon during term time, stick to it! A structured environment can often help towards discouraging behavioural problems too
The most important advice to remember is that this summer is different, so the challenges we will all encounter will be different too. Remember to be kind to yourself and STOP imagining that everyone else is having a wonderful and perfectly mapped out summer. They are not! Like you, most families will be doing their best to juggle all the usual things and any time you spend with your children doing small, fun, seemingly insignificant things is good!
Have a lovely summer!