School’s out for summer! But For many parents, especially those of children with challenges, the long summer holidays can be a difficult time.
The lack of routine just doesn’t suit all children. So we spoke to Children’s health and wellbeing charity the Sunflower Trust to get some tips on how to parent positively this summer:
Try a new tactic - say yes more often than you say no. This doesn’t mean letting the children take charge, it just means finding more inventive ways to reply to their constant chants of "can I have?" and "I want..."
Sunflower CEO Nichola Atkinson explains:
- “Agree to things on your terms. Instead of always saying no, try things like: ‘that’s a great idea, we can do that tomorrow after we have done the shopping’. Or: ‘yes an ice cream would be okay after you have eaten your tea later’.
Set rules for screen time in advance to prevent daily arguments. Again, agreeing the boundaries keeps it positive. It could mean a set amount of time each day, tablet time at a designated time of day or computer time once they have completed their chores.
Try to keep a regular bedtime in place – even if this is slightly later than during the school term. This goes a long way towards keeping children settled and also ensuring they get enough sleep.
Plan in advance
Most children like to know what is happening in advance and this can help to reduce any anxiety or stress. Try to plan at least a few days ahead so they know what to expect. It is useful to have a calendar up on the wall so that everyone can see what is happening each day.
Have fun drawing up some ideas lists together that you can call upon throughout the holidays. You can have different lists for days out, smaller activities to do together, activities for the children to do on their own.
Activities for children to do on their own are really useful for times when you just want a rest, need to do the housework, catch up on some emails etc. Ideas will vary from age to age but could include:
Bug hunt in the garden
A mini photography project
Some fitness challenges (how long can they run on the spot, keepy-uppys, balance on one leg, sit-ups, burpees)
Make their own snap cards
When stress levels rise, try Sunflower’s five steps to calm:
Uninterrupted breathing – encourage your child to spend a few moments concentrating on their breathing. This will calm their body down and also serve as a distraction.
Positive face – ask your child to do a silly smile; it’s definitely much harder to feel angry or stressed when you are smiling.
Balanced posture – stand up tall together, releasing tension and helping the blood flow.
Release muscle tension – help your child to feel more relaxed by concentrating on thinking about something calm and enjoyable.
Mental control – encourage some positive thoughts and help your child to feel in control by asking: “What could you do to make yourself feel better?”
Keep a healthy diet
We all know sugar is bad, but keeping sugar levels down is easier said than done in the holidays. Try to balance out the inevitable ice creams and other treats with some lovely salads and exciting fruit cocktails. A PYO day out doesn’t just have to mean scoffing mountains of strawberries – you can also pick fresh veg and this is a great way to get them trying some new greens!
Prepare for the return to school
After six weeks or more off school, the return can be traumatic for children. In the last week of the holidays, start preparing them by:
Meeting up with school friends
Having fun choosing some new pencils/school bag/pencil case/shoes etc
Chatting about their new teacher
Moving the daily routine back to school times for meals and bed
Going for a walk past the school a couple of times to make it a familiar place again
If your child is struggling to cope, or you feel they need extra support with their emotional confidence, the Sunflower Programme can help: 01483 531498