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Thrive instead of survive this summer (because mummy doesn’t need gin to get through it).

It’s around the summer hols that I often see a narrative of “How do I keep the kids busy this summer?” “I’m dreading the 6 weeks holidays” “What are the best days out?” all over social media.

I think it’s lovely that parents want to make a great summer for their kids, but that comes with a lot of pressure.

I want to add as well… I really dislike this narrative that mummy needs wine to be able to cope. NO. Mummy needs a good support network that will listen and help instead. Alcoholism is no joke.

The summer holidays should be a time of rest. It’s been a heck of a year and a half for everyone, don’t you think? Perhaps we ought to lean into the break, ease off and relax instead of filling our weeks with more and more things to do.

Here are 7 tips for parents this holiday:

”How do I keep them entertained?”

Peeps… I’m going to say this slowly and clearly: YOU DON’T. Honestly! Kids don’t need entertaining. Heck, they don’t want it either! If a child is saying they’re bored, that’s a sure sign they’ve been entertained for too long. Boredom is GOOD! Because you know what comes from boredom? Creativity, curiosity, problem solving… MAGIC! You could actually be doing your kids a disservice by NOT letting them get bored. Plus its exhausting trying to think of new activities and days out constantly. Relax! It’s okay for your kids to be bored.

Lower your expectations

Whenever I chat with a parent that’s having power struggles with their child, usually it’s because they’re unknowingly expecting too much of them.

One of the most powerful things you can do, as a parent, is to learn what is normal behaviour for your child’s age and stage and understand what your child’s brain is capable of. (*waves* Oh hi! That’s where I come in!)

It is with this information that you can adapt your parenting to meet their physical, emotional and cognitive needs and as a result… no more power struggles, happier parents and kids.

Kids are always arguing

You know what you aren’t? Your kids referee. If they’re having arguments, that’s pretty normal. We all need space sometimes, including space to work out how to get along. If, as parents, we are always stepping in and sorting out our kids disagreements, how do they have the chance to practise conflict resolution? Quite often, (as long as no one is getting hurt) if we leave them to it, they sort it out for themselves.

Once everyone is calm, we can help them reflect and let each other know how it felt. Kids, including older kids and teens, have real trouble understanding how their actions can affect others so if we can help them to see that what they did or didn’t do affected someone else’s feelings or actions, they learn how to behave differently next time. That’s the ultimate goal, right?

“I want ideas for some big days out!”

Okay so sometimes it is nice to get out together for the day. But see that word “big”? That puts a LOT of pressure on. That makes the big day out feel like it needs to be elaborate, it makes us want it to be perfect and for the kids to love every moment of it. This is unrealistic! What if you all wake up in a bad mood? Or if the kids had an argument? Or if you’d gotten some bad news? Or if someone is extra tired that day? Sometimes we feel like we need to organise big days out to make memories, but I bet that some of your best days out have been super simple, like a walk in the woods with friends or an ice cream at the beach.

Now I’m not saying don’t book in those big days to the theme park or the zoo… what I’m saying is, don’t put pressure on yourself to cram your whole 6 weeks off with these things. Simpler is better sometimes (in fact I’d say most times), especially when the kids are little.

Are you prioritising yourself too?

I speak to a lot of parents that are exhausted and at the end of their tether. I regularly ask “Do you have space for yourself?” And the answer is usually “No.”

My response: “How can you be the calm and patient parent you want to be without making time for yourself?”

I am being incredibly serious here. You MUST make time for you. Weekly as a minimum. And that doesn’t mean going to do the food shopping without the kids in tow. It means doing something you love because it makes you feel like you again.

You know, even as a home educating parent that’s quite used to being around her own children, it is absolutely imperative to my mood, my mental well-being, my ability to be patient and calm and my presence with my kids to make time for me.

And you know what the icing on the cake is? That when you make time for you, your kids benefit from the best of you.

Whatever makes you happy and feel like you, go do it! No guilt attached.

“I want to keep them busy and have lots in the diary”

In the 12 years working with children and families, and the 6 and a half years I’ve been a mother, I have never seen a child that has trouble keeping themselves busy.

Some of my favourite days as a child, myself, were days at home where I could just play with my toys and my siblings. This is no different for many children.

Nothing days are the BEST! The kids can do what they feel, there’s no pressure to get dressed or be anywhere, they can eat when they want, have as much time to themselves as they need… so many benefits.

Don't forget to book in some “nothing” days at home too, so you can all chill out.

”They’re always hungry!”

Well, yeah! Kids are growing! They need to eat regularly but if they’re always asking for food, I have a simple solution for you: snack baskets.

This is one of the first things I tell my Your Independent Toddler clients to set up as it helps to create really great habits for life including self regulating their hunger and independence.

It’s really easy to set up, but you have to trust your kids. Just have a basket or tray with all your child’s snacks for the day and each time they’re hungry, direct them to the snack basket. You could also add a water bottle or drinks dispenser.

Many parents tell me their kids would eat the whole lot in one go. That may be the case, but if they do, what’s to learn? Simply that once it’s gone, it’s gone and there will be more food at the next meal. Most kids will learn within a few days that they need to pace themselves. If you are concerned about this though, you can always put half of the snacks out in the morning and the other half out after lunch. You can also remove the basket half an hour before mealtimes if you’re worried they’ll not be hungry for their meal.

But honestly, the more opportunities your children have to practise self regulating their food intake, the more they’ll listen to their own hunger cues and only eat when they’re in need of refuelling. It is also worth noting that overeating isn’t a habit children are born with, rather one they learn through restricted meals and snacks. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend checking out my friend Lucy over at The Early Years Dietician.

If you’re struggling with your child’s behaviour and would like 3 simple steps to better behaviour, check out my free guide here:

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