I remember the countdown to summer holidays when I was young, it was so exciting. Summer seemed endless, days filled with wonder and adventure. We were out when the sun came up and home for tea. We went on magical jaunts, filling the days with excitement. When I was 10, summer felt like it literally lasted forever. We were lucky enough that our Mum was home most of the time, which meant we were pretty much left to our own devices. We lived in a neighbourhood with loads of kids, so we always had something to do. When I trained to be a teacher, I remember the exciting anticipation at the end of my first year of teaching. A whole summer of whatever I wanted to do. Even at 21, six weeks felt like forever!
Roll on a few years and I was working full time at an all-year round nursery setting with two small children. Gone were the endless free summers and now, with an American holiday allowance of two weeks a year, when school summers were NINE weeks, I dreaded the summer holidays. That dread only got worse as my children got older. I would always find myself scrambling in April trying to find them a summer camp that they would not only enjoy, but that we could afford. I would take a week and my husband would take a week and we were lucky enough that our in laws would have them for a couple of weeks, but that still left a gaping childcare hole we had to fill.
We tried everything – karate camp (they hated it), summer day camp (the oldest hated it), sports camp (not a fan). As we tried to find things to entertain them, I realised that my oldest always struggled with the summer holidays. He seemed to have a tricky time with the lack of routine, having to meet new friends and immediately get along with them. I worked full time, so late summer nights with the neighbourhood kids weren’t always a possibility and he already struggled with his sleep, so staying up night after night wouldn’t have worked for him.
Now he looks forward to the summer holidays like most other kids, but summers aren’t easy for everyone. For the kids who thrive on routine it can be really hard for them to be expected to switch things up and still be successful. Lack of routine can be just what we need to relax and decompress, but for those kids it’s the worst thing in the world and they find it really difficult to handle. Just when they get in the swing of it, it’s usually time to go back to school and switch up the routine all over again.
Summer holidays can be a nightmare for working parents as well. In the UK we are lucky enough to get a decent number of holidays, but it can still be hard to juggle six weeks of the kids being home, especially if you have more than one. There are loads of summer camp options out there, but none of them are free and sometimes it can feel like you’re shipping them off to yet another child care option.
Summer is my favourite season, and now that I work for myself, I am more in control of when I work and when I’m off. Also, my boys are pretty much old enough to take care of themselves (this is something to look forward to Mamas!) If your child struggles with school holidays, it’s more than likely that they’re struggling with a lack of routine. It’s ok to make a routine in the summer. Just because they’re on holiday, it doesn’t mean that all your days need to be free and easy. Make a loose routine that your child can follow – incorporate when they’re at camp or grandma’s. Have lunch at the same(ish) time everyday and most importantly, keep a sleep routine! Keeping a night-time routine, especially with younger children, will help them to get enough sleep to process new adventures, be able to handle new routines and will also allow you to feel like you’re still in control!
Don’t feel guilty if having your children home all summer makes you feel a bit queasy. There is no rule that you’re supposed to enjoy being with your children every second of every day! Make sure you make plans so that you have some alone time to decompress, relax and fill your own cup, so that you can be the best parent you can!