Accommodating school routines is challenging enough, so what do you do when school break time is thrown into the mix?
School breaks can be a truly challenging time for working parents, particularly those working without flexibility, working full-time, working single parents, having no support network, or experiencing financial difficulties.
So, how are working parents managing care for their kids during the upcoming break?
Outside school hours care programs
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 field trips, play activities, and learning experiences.
Programs and camps
Around your country, there will be a host of incredible boredom-busting school vacation 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 or participate in drama, theatre, and creative writing.
For those kids who feel a little shy or resistant to joining in at first, a little compromise might be the answer. Erica, a mother of two, has found an unconventional work-around; “I booked both kids 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 center’s cafe and worked there for the day. The boys could then pop in to see me when they wanted to. It worked well!”
Take annual leave and escape at home or abroad
Winter ski trip, anyone?! Lucky if you can manage it, you’ll be the envy of all your coworkers. School breaks are a wonderful opportunity to press pause and take some quality family time.
Mark school breaks in your calendar a year ahead. Plan vacations early and speak to your employer well in advance to maximize the 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
Did the babysitter cancel last minute? Some families have no other option but to take kids to work. Prepare everyone involved—manager, 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 a lunch hour with your child or schedule a workplace tour—try making it a special day that your child will remember.
The parent swap
With a dissonance between the amount of school vacation and legislated leave for full-time workers, the majority of working caregivers 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 into 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 child care! If you have willing and able family members 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.
Vanessa, mother of three, has fond memories of school holidays spent with her grandparents, tagging along to bingo, and volunteering at a retirement home. Her mother is now paying it forward by caring for Vanessa’s kids, filling the days with trips to the cinema and the local pool. “I’m always grateful for any support my family can offer. My mother is extremely accommodating, but I never expect her to be available. We plan well in advance, around her schedule rather than the other way round, and consider my siblings who also rely on my mother for child care.”
Some employers, empathetic to the needs of working parents, especially the added demands of the school break period, are willing to offer flexibility at work to support families. You could choose to work extra hours in the lead up to and after the break, work from home, or adjust your office hours for the school break period. Chat to your employer about the various options and agree on a plan that suits all involved.
For those families with two working parents, discuss what leave and flexibility options you both have access to and negotiate earlier rather than later.
At what age can kids stay home alone?
Legislation differs from region to region, and parents are responsible for making ‘reasonable’ decisions about their children’s safety. If in doubt, secure a responsible caregiver and never take chances when it comes to your children’s safety.
School breaks are an important time for children to enjoy a pause from the routine and demands of school and provides an opportunity for families to spend quality time together. While there is no easy answer to school break childcare, being flexible, planning in advance, employing all of your organizational and negotiation skills, and using a combination of the options above will minimize the stress, expense, and challenges of the experience.
We’ve created a school holiday planner you can download here.
Written by the Circle In team.
What child care options will you be using this school break? We’d love to hear at email@example.com.