SUMMER HOLIDAYS STARTING TO STRESS YOU OUT? DON’T STRUGGLE FOR IDEAS IN THE LAST WEEKS – WE CAN HELP!
Your children probably ran out of the school gates on the last day of term jumping for joy. Six long weeks of carefree fun and games awaiting them; what could be better?
Perhaps you too were overjoyed at the prospect of some quality time together but a little overwhelmed at how to handle the span of weeks stretching ahead. For many families, time together can be precious yet stressful so here are some tips to help.
Whilst high cortisol levels might be useful for short periods of time (think getting everyone out of the door on time for the school run), prolonged periods of the fight or flight response can be damaging to our health.
Read on for tips to a low stress summer.
HAVE A PLAN
It’s the old adage: ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ You might have rolled your eyes back in school if this was where you first heard it but there is definitely sense in this advice.
Having a plan, even if it’s only a rough idea, will save you a headache as you leap out of bed in the morning to the flurry of questions from your offspring.
Knowing where you might like to go and when means you’re more likely to be able to fit in outings without rushing to make it to venues before closing time, have the correct entrance fee if there is one and make play dates with other families before their diaries fill up.
If your children are old enough, why not sit down one evening and get them involved? Work out your budget and things you would be happy for everyone to do before hand and then have an idea generating session.
The kids will feel happy that they’ve had a say in things – it is their holiday after all – and know what to expect. Just make it clear that it’s a rough plan (if it is) so that your little angels don’t have a tantrum if they were expecting you to follow things to the letter.
Better still, create a box of random draw cards with two ideas on each. One activity for good weather and one solution if it’s wet. Then everyone can take it in turns to enjoy a surprise each day.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
This is taken care of if you opt for the random draw idea above. Haven’t got time? Don’t think it would work for your family?
Instead, draft a rough plan yourself and then put a box of ’emergency supplies’ together (either mentally or literally)
Children get poorly, friends cancel at the last minute, pools suddenly close. Think board games, bargain DVDs, a good value for money colouring or activity set. The Works (www.theworks.co.uk) or your local supermarket are good places to start.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DITCH THE PLAN
You know those days, the ones where it seems like literally everyone got out of bed on the wrong side? Those are the days to be prepared to drop all best laid ideas and just go with the flow.
If the children are tired, you’re tired or it just seems impossible to get out of the door, then it’s a sign that today should be an ‘easy’ day. Pyjama time, garden and toys time, a bit of television and quick easy meals are things everyone needs in between the hum drum of daily activities.
Trying to watch your weight and health? Quick can still be healthy. Try poached eggs on toast with a little spinach, oven baked fish with a baked potato and portion of veggies, quick and easy salads, soups with bread or fruit smoothies.
Don’t feel that you have to entertain your children the whole time. That’s a sure way on the road to exhaustion and whilst children need structure, they also need down time like the rest of us too.
ASK FOR HELP
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or ideally before you’re feeling overwhelmed, have someone on standby to lend a helping hand. It could be your partner or spouse, another parent friend, willing grandparent or if you can find one on your local area, a group which provides activities for the morning or an hours session.
You might need an extra adult to accompany a number of little people on an outing so that you don’t feel like a shepherd herding your flock. Or (and this is perfectly reasonable and should come attached with no guilt) you might just need a break. An hour, a morning or a day can make the whole world of difference to your sanity. And it’s good for your children too.
Relax with a magazine and cup of tea, book a massage, take a stroll down a country lane or go for a swim. Do whatever helps relax you to lower those cortisol levels and up your endorphins. (Chocolate counts here too!)
NOT EVERYTHING NEED COST MONEY
If the cost of taking one or many children to places to keep them amused is stressing you out, think again. You really don’t have to spend a lot (or any) money to have a good time.
Check out local garden centres for aquariums and plants for little ones to look at, Arboretums for free and shaded walks, promotional days at farms where there may be minimal or no cost but plenty of animals and dust off your local newsletter or paper. There’s probably at least one free event near to you during the summer break.
Don’t shell out for extortionate cinema tickets (unless you really want the treat). Enjoy at-home cinema with popcorn and homemade snacks.
FUN IN THE KITCHEN
Baking can be relatively cheap in terms of the cost of ingredients and children can pretend that they’re part of The Great British Bake-Off. Just watch out for those with a competitive streak!
Going to the beach? Save pennies by taking a packed lunch and limiting spending to an ice cream treat. Walks, beach combing, sandcastle building, paddling… They all come free once you’ve paid for the petrol.
Going by train? Book tickets in advance for large savings. Or why not car share if you know someone else with a family and there’s enough room for all the children? You can split the cost of fuel and there are more kids for your children to socialise with.
ONE GOAL A DAY
The summer holidays might be just that – a holiday – for your kids whilst for you, it’s the one time of the year you feel you have the chance to ‘get things done’ around the home.
If you want to limit stress here, don’t make your to do list too long. Painting the hall and stairs single handedly, squeezing in a trip to the supermarket, zoo and playground at the same time as feeding and keeping an eye on your little ones might seem like a feasible idea at midnight. But the reality is, you’ll probably go into overdrive desperately trying to complete the tasks you set yourself. It’ll most likely mean that you’ll spend holiday days tearing your hair out and yelling.
Instead, create calm by choosing one thing a day if you really want to get things done. That could be one small job for yourself and one outing/activity for you and the children. Remember, you need to still be standing when they go back to school!
ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!