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Reclaim your weekend

Are you overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the weekend? No sooner have you reintroduced yourself to the kids after a week of work then Monday morning rolls around again. Ah, you need some Muddy help!

Find yourself working at the weekend? Snapping at the kids to go away, worse, to watch their iPads? Yep, that’s me with bells on. With our workloads these days it’s almost impossible to take weekends off, and quality time with the kids feels light years away, nigh on impossible. So, we picked the brains of the wonderful Heather at The Parenting Partnership for some realistic tips of how to reclaim your fun family weekend. Here’s how to feel reconnected, recharged and happier. Over to you, Heather…

Do you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the weekend? Does it seem that no sooner have you reintroduced yourself to each other after a long week of school and work that Monday morning has rolled around again? Do tempers flare when you’re all rushing from one activity to the next? By Sunday evening do you feel flat and unfulfilled and no closer to your kids?

One Mum said that Saturday was the most stressful morning of the week. That despite the anticipation and expectation about having a wonderful time together, the reality was usually different.   They tried hard to do nice things such as pancake breakfasts but then there was always a rush to get everyone out the door to an activity. They were tired, with too many things to do and not enough time together. There was nagging, shouting and the odd tantrum and by the end of the weekend, with homework to do, jobs to finish they were all still exhausted.

Perhaps that sounds all too familiar.

We would all love a happy relaxed weekend but with competing interesting and many worthwhile and worthy things to do, vital peaceful family time is usually the first thing to get brushed aside. How can we make sure that everyone has manageable and realistic expectations about the weekend and that each one of us feels reconnected, recharged and that we’ve had some fun together too?

Here are our 5 top tips for reclaiming the weekend:

  1. Plan – Prioritise and plan your family time. Investing energy in setting priorities saves precious time, keeps us on track and reduces family hotspots. When we take charge, and are proactive about our family time and values we create a calmer happier home.

We are not in charge when we are reacting as things happen around us or leave things to chance. Set out, discuss and agree together during the week what needs to get done and what can wait so that time together can happen.

It is especially important for example to plan, communicate and be consistent with screen time limits. Without a plan set out in advance we can just imagine finding kids on screens all over the house with the inevitable disagreements about the where, when and for how long. This usually descends into nagging, repeating and the odd raised voice between parents AND kids. For more on setting screen limits see our blog.

When we take time to plan, get our kids involved, and set things up so they are more likely to go well, we can proactively anticipate the hotspots. We need to keep each of our children, with their unique temperament, in mind. For example, if you have a sensitive child who finds transitions difficult, you’ll need to allow more time to move from one activity (pancakes for example) to another (leaving the house suited and booted for football practice). You want to give him plenty of warning (“remember we chatted about football yesterday. What did you decide you were going to do to give yourself more time and get ready this morning? Yeah that’s right you remembered about getting dressed before pancakes”) and yourself the time to listen and empathise with his struggles.

Restorative, relationship building fun weekends don’t just happen, we need to set up for a successful weekend by taking the time to plan, collaborate and to communicate.

  1. Be realistic – So often we have a wonderful and worthy list of things to get done on the weekend. There are logs to be stacked, cars to be washed, reports to read, piano to be practiced, football to be played.  Some of our frustration and emotion can arise when our expectations about what we can achieve and the reality of where we need to focus our time and energy are out of synch. Having our family values in mind helps keep expectations in check.

I often come back to Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. Habit number two is to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Having a clear vision of the destination helps us move proactively in the right direction. You might ask yourself “can I realistically get all that done (the loft cleared, the long bike ride, the cakes baked, those emails) AND stay on track towards my end goal of raising kids who feel securely attached to our strong family unit?”

My goal involves spending quality time with all my kids at the weekend. Being realistic about our time may mean saying NO to something else and to give our self the opportunity to be fully present for our kids AND do what needs to get done. Keep in mind that the NO might just be the extra activity that you feel your child SHOULD be doing. Having a clear realistic goal will often help these decisions become clearer.

  1. Make memories – My memories of my childhood are of cricket matches, riding bikes, garden antics, playing cards and lots of laughter with my parents and siblings.  There were also the swimming lessons, the homework, the jobs and the tantrums but they have, for the most part, receded to the backdrop in my memory. Keeping memory making and joy an important part in our weekend can take energy but by planning, being realistic and adding in a little fun and creativity we are most of the way there.

The word ‘creative’ always scares me as I think of long craft filled afternoons which are not my forte. But it can be a lot easier than that. How things are perceived will often depend upon how they are presented: the small wheelbarrow or the sledge so you can all move logs together, having a blue tooth speaker with your kids choosing the music while you all wash the car, the den you build together inside with the table cloth when it is raining with the video at the end while you finish your report OR the coffee run with your teen via the dry cleaner on the way home.

There are other ways to be fun AND practical.  My sister and her husband had a little rule when her three boys were young. If one of them needed to get in the car to run an errand, they took a child with them. I love this idea as they made the time with one of their son’s special while being helpful to their partner who was left at home with a smaller complement of children instead of being left with ALL three and wondering whether the other was enjoying their quiet latte and the car wash.

  1. Be Fully Present – In a world where we are over scheduled and attached to screens, being fully present for our kids becomes more challenging but more important. How are we going to understand the inner workings of their world unless we take it upon ourselves to be present for them? Without presence, how can we ensure that we are curious, interested and fully engaged in their lives?

We know that presence and connection are vital for the wellbeing of our children and research continues to underscore the importance of our presence in their healthy development.

Dan Siegel and Tanya Bryson’ s new book: The Power of Showing Up draws on the field of attachment research and reveals that parental presence – how a parent is open to and focused on the inner life of the child – is the best predictor of how emotionally and socially resilient a child will be as they develop into young adults. They describe how this parent-child relationship helps foster a secure attachment by providing the four S’s of being seen, soothed, and safe to cultivate security.

All the research shows that children who have secure attachment are more likely to develop this resilience that is vital to our children’s health, happiness and success.

It is empowering to know that showing up for our kids has such an impact. If we are rushing from pillar to post at the weekend, when we have the greatest chance of being together, we are missing an opportunity to be present.

When we say present, we mean fully present and showing curiosity about what makes our children tick. It is worth remembering at this point that there is no such thing as multitasking. Scientists have demonstrated that our brains cannot do two things simultaneously, rather it switches from one task to the next. This switching takes time, energy and comes at the cost of our focus. Saying that we are fully focused and present on the conversation that we are having with our son whilst we are checking our text is an impossibility!

Fully present means slowing down, fully engaging and treasuring the moment. We build the connection with our kids and deepen the relationship when we send the message that there is nothing else I would rather be doing than spending time with you.

  1. This is not about perfection.   There is no such thing as a perfect weekend, the perfect parent or perfect kids. It is about good enough, being ourselves and remembering that we are all human. Our kids don’t want perfection they want us.

Planning ahead, being realistic and keeping the expectations in check, putting memory making and the joy of the moment at the forefront and being present for your kids is a great start. There will however be low parenting moments.

When things don’t go to plan, when we lose it with our kids or perhaps when something else we just must do gets in the way. We can honest.

“I am just exhausted. I am sorry that I have not been fully there for you this weekend. I am going to get home early on Tuesday. What would you like to do?” ‘Wow I did not mean to shout at you. I let my worries get the better of me and I am sorry.” “I can see that you are upset. I should have set out exactly what we needed to get done so that you could manage your computer time. Let’s make sure that we talk through our weekend plans during the week. How does Thursday sound?”

When we show vulnerability, we are teaching our kids that it is ok to make mistakes and that we can repair, problem solve and move on. We are after all doing the best we can with what we’re working with in the moment.

Finally, when we are clear on our goals, when we are realistic and proactively seek joy in the moment with presence we are much more likely to end the weekend feeling reconnected, recharged and happier.



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