Summer Survival Guide
Summer holidays are coming, stock up on the gin! You’ll cruise it with the Muddy survival holiday guide from The Parenting Partnership
Coming out in a cold sweat at the thought of 6 weeks with the ankle biters in tow? You’re not the only one. Watch this space for our round up of the best of the best going on in the county during July and August – camps, courses and fab days out – but you can’t keep that up day after day. So how do you survive when you’re not heading to Longleat? How do you have perfect family harmony? How do you get the kids on board – to help out, to have fun, to create and maintain routine? And how do your kids and teens amuse themselves? Over to the wonderful Panda and Heather at The Parenting Partnership for some oh-so-vital advice.
I think of the long summer ahead and all the things that we are going to accomplish – my three teens will finally learn to cook full meals, they’ll volunteer to take the dogs on long happy jaunts, their rooms will be tidy and they’ll help around the house, they’ll read 10 books each and have the initiative to earn some money all while getting along brilliantly. We will then have the perfect time away where we play cards and laugh and no one will look at their phones. It is going to be great!
An impossible dream? Perhaps, but with some thought and forward planning, you can set yourselves up for a fun, relaxed, productive summer and get closer to the dream and feel closer as a family by the time school rolls around.
Try these 5 top tips:
1. Set up for Success – Start as you mean to go on by having a family meeting to talk about ideas and plans such as sports camps, when you are going away and what everyone wants to do when they get there, ideas for day trips, play dates and other occasions. Put family responsibilities on the agenda – how are you going to share the jobs around the house? You may need to listen to and empathise with your children’s feelings around this if you are introducing new chores. As always it is a good idea for those co-parenting to talk in advance so that you’re sending out a consistent message. Then it’s time to involve the kids to show respect, get them to buy in to it so that everyone feels heard and is on the same page.
2. Keep the routine – Just because it is summer there is no need to throw caution to the wind along with all your routines. Kids thrive on routine and structure with clear, consistently upheld boundaries. Remind kids positively that the family rules and routines still apply. This doesn’t mean that we are completely rigid, we love a bit of spontaneity and some of our most precious memories are from the whacky spur of the moment things we have done but the table still needs to be set, our kids still need to speak respectfully to their siblings and friends and they need to get to bed at a reasonable hour without their phones in their rooms.
It is especially important to keep to sleep routines and a good diet. We are creatures of habit and we have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. By all means adjust the morning a bit but it’s good to remember that we never fully make up the sleep lost from a late night and that means that our kids behaviours may well deteriorate. We are all calmer, happier and more relaxed on a good night’s sleep. The change back at the end of the summer will be that much harder if our kids sleep schedules are all over the place. Slipping into a diet with too many fizzy drinks, too much caffeine and sugar can also impact their behaviour.
3. Focus on the positive – Enjoying our kids and our time together is likely to be the end game for the summer. One of the best ways to set a calm, positive and respectful tone is to notice and acknowledge all the things that your kids get right. We call this Descriptive Praise and it has the power to transform our relationships as well as our kids’ motivation to cooperate while boosting their self-esteem. This summer, override your instinct to point out all the things they get wrong (“how many times do I have to ask you to set the table?”) and instead focus on what they get right (“thanks for remembering that I said 6pm is supper time. What do you need to do now?”) Acknowledge and encourage good times and good behaviour by getting into the habit of giving attention to all the little things they get right.
4. Give your kids a sense of autonomy. Summer is a great time to cede a bit of control. We all have an urge to micro manage and we do it from a good place; perhaps we are fixing a problem, helping our kids avoid mistakes or just saving precious time. One of the keys to intrinsic motivation, doing something because you believe in your own goals, rather than to make someone else happy, is autonomy. If you start with the premise that parents should not be doing something for their children that they can do themselves, there seem endless opportunities to let them do, to let them learn (often from their mistakes) and to let them fly this summer. Perhaps make a list for each child of the things they could be doing for themselves and start with just a few. I have found that my son is now great at making his own lunch and remembering to put his sports kit in the wash. Food is a great motivator for a teenage boy as is a clean sports kit. Trust them, offer help and advice but let them do what they can do for themselves. You will thank yourself when they are more motivated to get their homework done in September.
5. ‘Being’ is better without screens. Shared mealtimes, fewer hours on screens and muddling through being bored together will all help to make you feel closer over the summer. Making sure that expectations and limits around screen usage are agreed in advance helps to address those inevitable screen-time battles. Think about things that you can be doing together instead of defaulting yourself to checking your Instagram (remember, parenting is largely modelling). Routinely making and sharing family meals together whether a picnic, BBQ or a pancake breakfast can be a priceless part of being together. Research shows that when families eat together regularly, children are more likely to be emotionally strong, be well adjusted, have good manners, broader vocabulary, communication skills and feel connected to their families. Summer meals, when we are a little less rushed, are a great time to foster empathy, the art of listening and just enjoying each other’s company.