The kids are bored and outside their routine, with different personalities starting to clash.
Add in the stress of the yearly get together with the extended family, and how to manage as a parent?
[You might find our article on surviving family get-togethers helpful, too.]
Surviving the School Holidays
1. Have empathy for your kids.
It can be seriously stressful being a parent over the school holidays. So stressful that one can forget that children experience stress, too. (The National Office of Statistics now cites one in 10 children in the UK as suffering from depression or anxiety).
Your kids might miss their routine and school friends, feel overwhelmed by family events if they are shy, or be stressed by having to spend more time with a bossy sibling.
Sympathy, however, can make a child, like anyone, feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. So do learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.
2. Reconsider forced involvement.
Yes, maybe it’s a generations-long tradition for the entire family to attend the local Easter egg hunt, or go carolling at Christmas. But if your shy child is seriously frantic with fear before hand, or your teenager really is too depressed, is tradition really worth them being upset the whole holiday?
Traditions are, after all, supposed to be about connection. What new, more suitable traditions can you can start this year?
3. Go big on the listening.
Sit down with each child and use your best listening skills to ascertain what their concerns are about the holidays. If they are unhappy about some of the planned events, why not ask for their feedback on other options?
A large-scale research project between UK and Denmark found that using listening skills with young children resulted in increased self-esteem and social skills, and helped them understand the way decision-making works.
A young child, of course, does not need the stress of feeling they must ‘make a decision’, but older children might have ideas you have missed. Allowing a child to feel listened to can mean less temper tantrums and sibling fights, often designed to get your attention.
4. Let the kids do some of it. No, really.
Yes, you might truly want to believe the kids are ‘just lazy’. Or that ‘if I don’t do things around here, nothing gets done’. But it’s important to be honest about your own role in ensuring your kids don’t help out.
Are you being a perfectionist? While it’s understandable that you can’t trust the kids to arrange the entire party for the extended family, would it really be so bad if they set the table and there is one knife laid wrong?
Are you stuck in the ‘victim mentality’? Where in a backwards way, you take your power from ‘having to do it all’? Look carefully at how often you actually ask the kids to help, in a clear, genuine, and calm way. And do you let them do the chores they might enjoy, rather than just pushing them to do what they hate?
Allowing children some responsibilities not only keeps them busier and raises their self-esteem, it can see them finding ways of working (instead of fighting) together.
5. Timeouts for all.
We all need timeouts now again, and that means parents, too.
Make it ok for both you and the kids to take some quiet downtime. Set rules around what space is private space (time out signs for door knobs can work) or even delegating a ‘quiet room’ during family get togethers.
An agreed to time limit, like 20- minutes, is an idea. Otherwise, your kids can use timeouts as a way of hiding themselves away.
6. Go for some giving.
Big on spending time together as a family each school holiday? But no matter what great, expensive day out you plan, it always ends in discord?
Consider helping others as a family, even if it’s just for an afternoon. It costs nothing but your time, and volunteering has now been proven to boost your mood.
It might give your children (and you) new perspective on how much there is to be grateful for, which might mean less complaining all around.
7. Evaluate and learn from each holiday.
Too often families fall into set ways of being on holidays, just ‘accepting’ any stress or discord. Take the time to analyse each holiday with good questions.
If, for example, every holiday a fight breaks out in the car on the way to see the grandparents, it might be time to question what is stressful for your children about the trip and what can be done instead. Does one of your kids fear the way you get grumpy around your parents, for example? Be willing to listen. And then find new ways for the next holiday to work better.
And if every holiday you really just can’t cope…
Parenting can be hard, and can trigger old hidden issues and insecurities. Perhaps not surprisingly, parenting issues are a common factor for why people end up in therapy. A counsellor or psychotherapist can not only help you understand and work through your challenges, they can help you find new ways of coping.
If it’s conflicting parenting skills with your partner that is your issue, consider couples counselling, which creates a safe place to communicate clearly and be heard.
Harley Therapy puts you in touch with experienced and empathic therapists and counsellors in central London locations, as well as worldwide via online therapy.
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