If you’re like me, you arrived at the school holidays, breathless and seemingly without warning. Sure there were warning signs like the Easter Hat parade, the concert and the morning tea raffles etc., but then all of a sudden, it was the holidays!
So now, you’re mid way into the break you’ve been counting down towards, and you’re a bit flabbergasted as to why your kids are seemingly more irritable than they were before you went on school holidays … in fact, now you think about it, they’re whinier, snappier and less able to regulate themselves, and you’re wondering how it got to this.
Well, here’s the answer.
They were tired at the end of first term. Then they’ve been busy seeing friends or family, or having playdates or parties, or other school holiday activities to ward off the inevitable boredom. Now their tiredness has compounded. Call it a swirling mess of fatigue and emotion and boom. That’s right where you are.
The bad news? If you don’t do something different, you’re not going to send kids back to school in a way that is supportive of them and you, of course, will bear the brunt of that. You and I both know that kids largely behave at school, it’s when they get home that everything turns to mush.
The good news? You still have time let to turn this around. So when they do go to school, they have the energy and stamina they need to show and up and do their work, and have a good time, without coming home and oozing their B.I.G feelings all across your lounge room, kitchen, dining room table and floor.
And I’m going to show you how. Starting now…
6 steps to allow kids to rejuvenate in the school holidays
Step 1: Go out less
You are going to only schedule one activity that takes place outside your home, each day.
This is important, because while it gives you some respite, it drains energy levels below what we are trying to replace.
Step 2: Limit screen time
You are going to limit their screen time to the paediatric recommendation of less than 2 hours a day.
Whilst it does render them speechless and therefore quieter for that time, their little brains are actually working harder during screen time, than non-screen time. So you will often see kids that come out of screen time worse than when they went in.
Step 3: Find a home-based activity to share
You are going to google home-based, easy, age-appropriate craft activities to do with your child. And you are going to do at least one a day.
You will sit with them whilst they splat and splodge to their hearts content. And you will have them help with clean up and together you will do it with some music on in the background.
Bonus points come from spontaneous dance parties to ’80s music like Love Shack. Naff, but entirely energising.
Step 4: Read together
You are going to read books together as a family every day. Pop some popcorn, choose a family based book that is age-appropriate and throw up some blankets to make a fort. Now get comfortable and get reading.
Switch it up, take turns and thoroughly enjoy yourselves.
Step 5: Do some gardening
You are going to do a mini garden project. Note the word ‘mini’. These means you are going to get your hands dirty and get out into the garden, grounding you and your people with nature. You’ll poke and prod and need a manicure afterwards, but you can use your one scheduled activity to go do that if you need too.
If you don’t have a garden, think about making a terrarium for your darlings’ bedroom. Pinterest has heaps you can source inspo from, just don’t try and replicate this, remember it’s the process of getting closer to nature and you already know your kid is going to make it just like a kid will. And that is perfect in and of itself, so hands off and expectations low.
Step 6: Now … let them immerse themselves in open-ended play
Now if you’ve done all these things over a period of a few slow and steady days, you will find that everyone’s tank is filled much, much higher. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO USE UP THIS ENERGY.
You have done well my friend, but the trick here is to use this restored version of yourself and child (you will have inadvertently filled up your own tank too) and keep things on the down low. Add in a second, small, play date every second or third day or so if you must, but what I want you to do from here, is to use this energy that you have restored and have your child play at home.
You will find they won’t be as needy for you now. So this is where you’ll finally get some down time too. You’ve just invested beautifully in your people after all, so now is the perfect time to give them the gift of immersion in open-ended play. Think LEGO, play dough, dolls, craft/colouring, sand pit, etc.
Hold this until it’s time to go back to school, then follow your own learnings from this process to apply to them once they are back in term, and watch how much easier life can be.
You’ll always have meltdowns. That’s literally written in your job description when you become a parent, but when you know how to deeply meet the needs your kid has for rest and rejuvenation, then you have (almost) everything you need in life.
So the answer, my friends, is this: kids need you to show them how to decompress, and to keep them at that level until such time that they are settled, happy and thriving.
Then it’s time to go back into the world and do all the learning. Bookmark this article and rinse and repeat for Term 3.