With term two Australian school holidays starting for many, working parents around the country will be scrambling to fill their kids’ days with activities and sort appropriate care (unless you’ve got self-sufficient teenagers). The juggle is already a struggle, so what do you do when school holidays are thrown into the mix?
School holidays can be a truly challenging time for working parents, particularly those working without flexibility, working full-time, working single parents, those with no support network, or those experiencing financial difficulties. We’ve created a school holiday planner you can download here.
So, how are working parents managing care for their kids this school holidays?
Outside school hours care programs
Your before and after school care service providers often also offer education and care during school holidays. Hours and locations will vary depending on community needs, and programs include a combination of incursions and excursions, play activities and learning experiences. Conditional to your individual circumstances, the Child Care Subsidy may also apply.
Programs and camps
Around the country there are a host of incredible boredom busting school holiday programs and camps on offer for kids to support working families. Sport and outdoor education camps abound, and there are opportunities for kids to get their art and craft on, participate in drama, theatre, creative writing—the RSPCA even has a program for animal lovers.
For those kids who feel a little shy or resistant to joining in at first, a little compromise might be the answer. Circle In’s social media guru, Erica, found an unconventional work-around last school holidays, ‘I booked both sons into a full day sports program, but they didn’t really want to go,’ says Erica, ‘So, I compromised by taking my laptop in with me. I parked myself in the sports centre’s cafe and worked there for the day. The boys could then pop in to see me when they wanted to. It worked well!’
Schoolholidayprograms.com.au has a fabulous list of private programs available and is a great place to start your search. Check enrolment dates and book in early to avoid missing out.
Take annual leave and escape at home or abroad
Winter ski trip anyone?! Lucky if you can manage it, and you’ll be the envy of all your colleagues. School holidays are a wonderful opportunity to press pause and take some quality family time. Our very own Kate is on countdown till she takes some time out with her husband and kids this school holidays.
Map out holidays in your calendar a year ahead. Plan trips early and speak to employers well in advance to maximise chances of getting leave approved. Check your company’s annual leave policy, you may be able to ask for additional unpaid leave. Avoid peak work periods where possible, and make suggestions to help manage your workload while you’re away.
Take the kids to work
Babysitter cancelled last minute? Some families have no other option but to take kids to work. Prepare everyone involved—boss, colleagues, kids—about what is happening and what to expect, plan a schedule of activities and remember to pack plenty of snacks. If you have the time, book in lunch hour with your child or schedule in a workplace tour—try making it a special day that your child will remember.
KidsCo. offers fun, developmental and age-appropriate school holiday programs run by teachers and teachers-to-be. And, best of all, they bring the fun into your workplace Australia-wide. Does your workplace qualify for a KidsCo. program?
The parent swap
With approximately 12 weeks of holidays during the school year and only four weeks of legislated annual leave in Australia for full-timers, the majority of working parents know what it means to juggle the gap. Find working parent friends in a similar bind and arrange the parent swap. With mates to play with, kids keep busy, stimulated and happy so you can head in to work guilt-free. It’s often far from the out of control overburden of your nightmares!
Employ a nanny
Nannies and babysitters are convenient, offer greater flexibility, and enable children to receive one-to-one care in their own home, play with their own toys, and possibly participate in activities and day trips outside the home. You may be able to share with another family to reduce costs and provide kids with a playmate or more.
Begging and bribing family members is a tried and true method for locking in that much needed childcare! If you have willing and able family close at hand, you are one of the lucky ones. Remember to set clear expectations, be grateful for the help you receive and never take advantage. Circle In Content Editor Vanessa has fond memories of school holidays spent with her grandparents, tagging along to bingo and volunteering at a retirement home. Her mum is now paying it forward by caring for Vanessa’s kids, filling the days with trips to the cinema and local pool. ‘I’m always grateful for any support my family can offer. My mum is extremely accommodating, but I never expect her to be available. We plan the calendar weeks out, work around mum’s schedule as much as possible rather than the other way round, and play fair with my siblings who also rely on my mum for childcare.’
Some employers, empathetic to the needs of working parents, especially the added demands of the school holiday period, are willing to offer flexibility at work to support families. This could take the form of working extra hours in the lead up to and after holidays, working from home, or adjusting your in-workplace hours for the school holiday period. Chat to your employer about the various options and nut out a plan that suits all involved.
For those families with two working parents, sound out each other about what leave and flexibility options you can access at work, discuss and negotiate earlier rather than later.
At what age can kids stay home alone?
Legislation differs from state to state, and parents are responsible for making ‘reasonable’ decisions about their children’s safety. If in doubt, arrange a responsible carer and never take chances when it comes to your children’s safety.
School holidays are an important time for children to enjoy a break from the routine and demands of school. They also provide an opportunity for families to spend quality time together. While there is no easy answer to school holiday childcare, being flexible, planning in advance, employing all of your organisational and negotiation skills, and using a combination of the options above will minimise the stress, expense and challenges that come with juggling school holiday childcare.
Written by the Circle In team.
What childcare options will you be using this school holidays? We’d love to hear at email@example.com.