What’s not to love about school holidays? A period of rest, rejuvenation, family time, and a well-earned breather from packing lunchboxes. But, for many working parents, the break from routine means long days book-ended by work, childcare stress and harried nerves from all that sibling bickering.
Lifestyle coach Suzanne Acteson believes the secret to successful school holidays is intention setting. She shares five thoughtful tips to prepare you and the kids for a fulfilling and restful break.
Towards the end of term, many working parents are feeling their kids’ exhaustion in the early mornings, witnessing post-school meltdowns and dealing with their general fatigue.
It is time for a well-earned break and school holidays are upon us. Yes! …or is it? A break from school can make the juggle go up a notch. Holiday camps. Play dates. Vacations. Staycations. Whatever your choice of activity, the reality is, there’s some sort of juggle going on.
There are ways to make it easier though, and give yourself the best chance of success. Here are five ways to make these school holidays more enjoyable for you and the kids.
Get really clear on your priorities each day
If you’re taking some time off, then do just that. Give your kids your dedicated time and be conscious of when you choose to check in on emails, texts or social media. You owe it to yourself and your children to be completely present with them, and if you’re trying to do a bit of work on the side, you won’t be doing either very well. You’ll be a distracted parent or a stressed-out worker with screaming kids in the background.
Same thing goes if you’re working from home. Dedicate yourself to a few productive hours of work (6AM to 9AM perhaps, when we do our best work?) and then switch off after that. Don’t feel guilty if you have to work—just be clear with yourself and with your family, and perhaps you can get hyper-productive to have more time with the kids while they’re around.
Make a plan
So that you’re not overwhelmed each day with what to do, make a list of things to do and think about the best days to do them. If you have a rough plan, you won’t feel stressed or overwhelmed that you’re wasting days away.
Don’t make a plan
What? Didn’t I just say make a plan? Yes, however I don’t suggest planning every day. Kids love schedules and routines, but remember how tired they are. A few days at home, lounging around in their jammies is perfect self-care for them and you. If you feel like the kids are getting scratchy, set out an ‘invitation to play’—that’s educator-speak for ‘put out an activity that is open-ended’. This could be laying out a collection of materials on the table, which will attract their attention and give them something to do for a little while. No need for papier-mâché animal heads or rainbow lanterns! It is during play-based activities that kids use their imagination most. Watch as they get immersed, without technology!
Last school holidays I put out a cardboard box and some markers and, before I could even point them out, all three of my boys (11, 8 and four) were playing for hours. Of course we had some arguments, but that’s normal for most households.
Get prepared ahead of time with food
With kids home more than usual, there will be a lot of fridge emptying and snacking going on. Get ready for it so you’re not scrounging or coming up with unhealthy food that’s going to make everyone’s behaviour go down the tubes. If you can, make a list of seven family meals (on repeat), and fill in gaps with leftovers and a meal out—you will thank me for it.
Be smart about snacking. If you can find three recipes that have similar ingredients (oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, muesli bars and energy balls, for example) you can make them all at once and have three different types of snacks (that also freeze) ready for hungry kids.
Last but not least, prioritise you and your mental health
Whether you’re taking some time off during the school holidays or not, I think we can all agree that being in a good mental state as much as possible helps us deal with issues, big and small, throughout the day.
Holidays are also a great time to start instilling new habits, and I’m a huge fan of a morning routine or ritual. I coach a lot of my clients to start one, and the transformations are amazing. It generally works if you have little people that sleep until 7AM. If you still have early-morning wakers, I suggest trying to fit ritual into a naptime instead.
- Wake 15, 30 or 60 minutes before everyone else.
- Download a meditation app like Headspace, Smiling Mind or Insight Timer and do a free trial or the free meditations that are 10 minutes each. Keep at this three to four times a week—more if you can to set yourself up for the day.
- If you have time, use a journal and write down what’s on your mind. The simple task of writing down your thoughts is like a good chat to a friend. You will feel a weight lift.
- Write down some goals for yourself, your business, your family. Write down what you would like to stop doing, feeling or holding on to. Read these each morning so your subconscious believes you are doing them. This is called manifesting and it works.
Setting yourself up for the day is a powerful tool to being intentional about what you want and starting the day in the most productive, energy-generating way. It’s been a game-changer for me and I highly suggest trying it, even if only for 15 minutes.
I’ve shared a few ways that you can help yourself and the kids have a beautiful holiday together and not stress about the break ahead. Whatever your situation, all of these ideas can be integrated into your life to really start savouring the things that matter most and living more intentionally every day.
Written by Suzanne Acteson. Suzanne is an entrepreneur, coach, writer and speaker helping busy women better manage the juggle of work and life, and learn to reconnect with what matters most. Connect with Suzanne via Instagram or Facebook.