Top Tips for the Holidays
What can go wrong with holidays?
- Lack of structure – routines go out the window, rules get relaxed/abandoned, especially if you’re staying with another family.
- Changes in diet, sleeping and exercise patterns. At Easter particularly children can overdose on sugar and they may not get as much exercise as when they’re at school or nursery.
- They may get over stimulated or may say they’re bored.
- We may have expectations of holidays which are not met. We may be looking forward to cosy, friendly, family times together and instead the children might be bickering and whining and not appreciating the trouble we’ve taken to organise fun things etc. As a result we feel disappointed and frustrated and blame ourselves for our children’s selfishness etc…
- On top of all that you may have to focus on the needs of others more than usual especially if you’re staying with someone else or have friends or relatives staying with you. Interacting with relatives you don’t see all that often can bring its own stresses (!).
On the other hand holidays do have some advantages:
- The absence of the school routine means you have an opportunity to not be a slave to the clock and take the time to really train your children into good habits. This is a fantastic opportunity to train your children to be more cooperative and self-reliant.
The Parent Practice’s Ten Top Tips:
- Do less in order to minimise stress and to allow you to focus on enjoying being with your children and getting them into good habits. Beware of over stimulating the children. Plan for some time for yourself so that you can replenish the resource that you are for your family.
- PLAN more. Spend time anticipating what could go wrong and take preventive action. Eg what can you take with you to church services that will keep small children quietly occupied? Have solution time with your partner and family meetings to discuss planned events.
- CHAT THROUGH situations or activities before they arise. Ask your children what will need to happen/ how they need to behave, in detail. Eg look Granny in the eye when you say Hello. (If this is difficult then practice it in a role play) Maybe ask them how they might feel, eg when having to try food they don’t like. What can they do in that situation? Praise every sensible/brave response. Mention several times in advance things that you think they may not be looking forward to so that they have time to get used to the idea.
- Think through rules and routines for the holidays and discuss them with your partner. There should be rules even if these are different from those you have at home/in term time. You may need to discuss house rules with the parents of other families under the same roof. Even if this means compromising on what you really want to happen you are more likely to be able to make the compromise rule work.
- Think of possible non-material rewards (tick or star charts, time with a parent, stories, games, bubble bath, dressing up, candles and choices) for when the children keep the rules and consequences you are able to follow through on when the rules are broken. Don’t forget to praise specifically when the children have followed a rule. Require them to do the things they need to do to the standard you require. This may mean just waiting and praising tiny steps in the right direction until they’ve done what you asked (nothing else happening in the meantime) or it may mean requiring a take two. (do what’s required again in the right way). Some behaviours require stronger consequences and that means forward thinking so you do not get caught out threatening a consequence that you don’t carry out.
- Set up routines so that the children are earning holiday outings, screen time (TV, video, playstation etc), pocket money or special foods by completing the tasks they need to do. Eg tidying up before TV. Beds made, pyjamas folded and get dressed before breakfast or before a game with you.
- SET THE MOOD by descriptively praising your children (and the other adults) early and often.
- PROVIDE TIME ALONE with each child every day even if it’s not very much time.
- Have STRUCTURED TIME AND UNSTRUCTURED TIME every day. Do not become the children’s entertainment director – it is not your job to think of things for them to do. They need to become self-reliant in managing their own time and just being by themselves. In a family meeting you might ask them to come up with a list of possible things to do on their own which they can consult when they’re ‘bored’. Some children may have holiday school assignments – do not leave them till the last minute and don’t agree with your child that he shouldn’t have to do it or that it’s boring even if you think so. You can of course reflectively listen to how they feel about having to do an assignment in the holidays. Eg “You feel holidays are times when you shouldn’t have any responsibilities/to do any work. It’s your time to relax. To you it feels unfair that you have a project to complete. ” Show an interest in what they’re learning.
- When things go wrong and children behave inappropriately DO NOT BLAME, CRITICISE, SHOUT OR NAG but try to think about the reason for the misbehaviour. Was there an emotion driving it or was the child looking for attention? Were they tired, over-stimulated or over-sugared? Acknowledge the feelings and, when things have calmed down, ask the child to think of an appropriate way of making amends. If your child is looking for attention make sure you’re giving lots of it for the positive things he’s doing.