Now we’re well and truly into the summer holidays, there must be quite a few parents and carers who are still experiencing panicked flashbacks to lockdown, school closures and the prospect of ‘bored’ children, especially if they have to work and juggle running a house and keeping the kids entertained too. Every family will have a different perspective on school holidays this summer. Some will be jetting off to tropical climes for a couple of weeks, others might be having a staycation while many will not be able to afford a holiday away at all.
Whatever plans parents and carers might have, they need to be aware that their children are better with some kind of structure and sticking to a predictable routine, especially those suffering from anxiety and stress. Breaking the six weeks down into manageable bite-size chunks, planning ahead with the use of a wall planner to highlight some of the fun activities and outings they have in store and creating a wall chart with stickers for tasks accomplished can all be inspiring and provide positive reinforcement. As part of this, it might be useful for parents and carers to choose two or three positive behaviours in their children that they’d like to encourage and try to ignore as many of the negative ones as possible.
In these days of the double-edged sword of social media, one of the greatest challenges parents and carers face is trying to keep their children away from the screen and outdoors, possibly going on a nature walk or experiencing forest bathing – a precious time for peace, reflection and inspiration. Enrolling them into a sports school, a swimming course or a performing arts production are great for those who have the financial means. Otherwise, odd days out to the beach, maybe to a water park, a boat trip, swimming bath, having a picnic or visiting a farm or garden centre can also be stimulating.
Burning off energy in the safety of a garden can offer endless hours of fun for younger children and less financial outlay: creating an obstacle course, a pop-up play tunnel, providing a painting easel or whiteboard, a dressing up rail or fancy dress box, velcro tennis, a trampoline, a paddling pool, putting a sheet over the washing line to create a tent, having a sand pit or brick building table or setting up an impromptu shop or cafe. Older ones might prefer to improve their cooking skills or keep a journal of their holiday and develop photography kills to illustrate it.
‘One of the greatest challenges parents face during the holidays is keeping their children away from the screen’
On an emotional level, we all know that the last two years have been traumatic and unsettling for everyone, so we need to be sensitive to mental health issues more than ever. It can be useful for parents and carers to be mindful of setting aside times for intentional conversations with their children, where they are actively listening to them and giving them an opportunity to reflect back how they are feeling. A huge part of being ‘a good enough parent’ is to be an emotional anchor for children so that they don’t feel rudderless.
Good ways of dealing with stress and anxiety are a simple stress ball, meditation, breathing and yoga techniques as well as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which involves tapping on the body’s energy meridians to dampen down the amygdala and help children to get in touch with their inner thoughts and feelings, giving them an opportunity to feel like a human being rather than a human doing. Encouraging children to write down their worries and put them into a box, jar or envelope or create a specific calm jar, a homemade snowglobe using water and glitter can reduce anxiety. Shaking the jar and watching the glitter go to the bottom can be very calming. Younger children can also benefit from having a ‘worry doll’ to share their worries with. By placing it under their pillow before they go to sleep, by the morning the doll has helped them to overcome their worries.
‘Let The Souls of Our Children Sing’ by Leonora Langley is available in paperback, priced £8.99 and e-book from Amazon and Austin Macauley.’