If school holidays were a marriage we would be well and truly past the honeymoon period. The rush of pre-Christmas has subsided, and the shiny novelty of new toys has worn off. As has spending every waking moment together. Nerves are starting to grate, the whining has begun in earnest and weeks of holidays still stretch ahead. I need to manage some neglected work (both the house and business varieties) and my husband is back to working normal hours. The kids, however, are still firmly in holiday mode.
I actually want to get back to work, to plan for the new year and spend some time on strategic thinking while there is still space for it. My kids, who are growing restless but would never admit it, are increasingly reliant on me to provide entertainment. When the boredom sets in my boys turn on each other. They know exactly how to niggle each other. That combination general escalates into a pretty unpleasant picture for all involved — me shouting and irritated that I can’t get a moment of peace and the boys, who normally get on well, not willing to play with each other.
I imagine I’m not the only mum in this situation. Here’s what I do to try and manage these last weeks of the holidays.
1. Get outside. Fresh air and a different view are brilliant circuit breakers when things get out of control. A trip to the park, a bike ride, feeding the ducks, and going to the local pool are all inexpensive options to bring things down a notch.
2. Plan something fun a week or so in advance. I love having something to look forward to as do the kids. Planning something well ahead of time and counting down the days on the calendar is exciting. It also works as excellent bribery for good behaviour.
3. Have fun, independent projects on hand. “I’m bored” is a whine every mother is familiar with around this time of year. I have a few craft activities on standby that the kids can do with limited help. Colouring, word searches, reading and dot-to-dots are popular in our house at the moment and perfect wind-down activities.
4. Limit screen time. It’s such a great solution when I need to get something done and I need the kids to be quiet. But I find it to be a very temporary solution. When my kids get too much screen time they get ratty and hard to appease. Limiting screen time to a set amount of time (when I need it most!) seems to work well; these tips are gold.
5. Stick to the 20/40 rule. If I need to get work done and the kids are home, I play with them for 20 minutes, and then spend 40 minutes on work and repeat. Sometimes they just need that connection before I can turn my attention to other things.
6. Spend one-on-one time with each child. My boys are four years apart, so their interests are quite different and it can be hard to accommodate them both. Having a day just to focus on them one-on-one makes us all happy.
7. Schedule some friend time. My eldest will catch up with his school friends a few times during the holidays. It’s so helpful to know that he is welcome over at someone else’s house for a few hours and that they are in turn welcome at ours. Seven weeks is a long time to not see friends and sometimes kids just need to be around other kids their own age.
8. Create something together. When emotional chaos strikes, making something together can calm everyone down. Baking, creating a mural together, building a fort, and even board games seem to put everyone back on the same page.
9. Stick to the routine (sort of). One of the things I love about holidays is that we can deviate from our routine. Bedtimes don’t have to be strictly adhered to and we can stay in our PJs all day, if we really want to. But if we deviate wildly from any kind of routine for days and days on end things get a bit hairy. It’s true that kids find comfort in routine and knowing what comes next. While we aren’t strict about it, we still keep to a basic routine when we can.
The summer holidays are wonderful but that doesn’t mean they are all candy-canes, sand castles and glow sticks. There are moments I can’t wait for school to start again. But then I remember that the kids are only little for such a tiny while. In a few short years, they won’t want to spend their precious holidays with me. They will be off with their friends, growing up and exploring the world. I know these are the days that I will look back on and smile. I just need to remember to smile while they are actually happening.
How do you manage the last weeks of the holidays when everyone is going just a little crazy?