School’s out for summer – but having your kids at home on holiday can prove stressful, especially when trying to balance their needs and yours. Behavioural expert Judi James offers ideas and inspiration for school holiday stress relief.
Why tensions can rise during the summer holidays
Kids love the summer holidays and their break from the hard work of school, but whilst it’s good to have them around at home, it’s only natural that tensions can rise.
“In your mind you envisage sunny weeks filled with laughter and fun en famille as you share all those Enid Blyton-esque trips and outings that come under the heading of that popular euphemism, ‘Quality Time’,” says Judi James, behavioural expert and author of More Time, Less Stress.
“But in reality the battles often start on day one as you find your space and territory overrun with kids. Their body clocks are set at a different timing to yours – they’re sound asleep when you’re awake first thing, yet running riot when you’re looking forward to a warm bath and bed.”
Tension at home isn’t helped by the weather – on very hot days, tempers can flare, yet on rainy summer days, it can be hard work keeping children entertained when they can’t be letting off steam outside.
Getting the balance right
One of the key ways to ensure everyone gets the best out of the summer holidays is to get the balance right.
Kids clubs and summer courses often run through the holidays, giving children activities to do and the chance to socialise with others. They can be good to explore if funds permit and give everyone a break.
Help with childcare from friends and family can be valuable too, especially if you can repay the favour to friends and share the burden.
In fact, according to a report by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre, produced for the Department of Education, grandparents play a significant role in childcare arrangements of school-aged children, particularly during school holidays.
“Don’t get into conflict by expecting grandparents to look after your children for long periods, but don’t feel guilty if they do offer,” says Judi.
The importance of ‘me time’ during the holidays
Whilst looking after your kids and keeping them happy will obviously be a top priority during the holidays, don’t forget to look after yourself too. Everyone benefits from a bit of ‘me time’, so make sure you take time to relax and unwind.
“Planning your ‘me time’ is best done by negotiating with other adults, rather than kids. Try taking it in turns with your husband or wife to allow yourself to spend regular patches of time alone doing very little,” suggests Judi. Even 10 minutes to half an hour will help you relax and recharge.
Top tips for reducing school holiday stress
Plan ahead and reduce the chance of school holiday stress by thinking about how you can keep your cool.
Some top tips from Judi include:
- Avoid unnecessary house rules, except for ‘danger’ ones. They’ll get broken and raise stress levels.
- Create a ‘rumpus area’, where your kids have their own space and can go to yell and let off steam.
- Don’t be obsessive about everything being perfect. Cut corners where necessary and allow yourself to breathe.
- Use music to lighten your mood.
- Don’t expect your older kids to complete all their chores or shopping whilst you’re at work. They’re probably won’t, and it will save your evenings ending up spoilt with stress.
- Use mantras to steer you back on track if tempers flare. Repeat phrases like “Life’s too short” or “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.
Relieving stress when time is at a premium
Even if you’re working throughout the holidays and juggling multiple demands, stress relief is still possible.
For example, Judi suggests taking 10 minutes at the start and end of each working day to warm up or wind down. “You need to avoid taking work problems home and vice versa, and these 10 minute slots can help get rid of home or work issues and help you focus on the next things you’ll be doing.”
You might also find it useful to keep a notebook with you to use as an emotional log. Writing your emotions down can help you deal with them in a way that discussing or moaning about them doesn’t. It’s also a useful way of remembering and keeping track of everything you need to do!
For more information on managing stress, visit our Stress Centre and read the various articles available, or why not post any questions you may have about stress to one of our experts and they’ll respond within a couple of days.