In the grand scheme of life six weeks is nothing, but six long weeks of the summer holidays can feel like an age. Personally I have always enjoyed the school breaks, not because we have happy Walton style family and we can't get enough of each other, but because I detest the school run that much!
Sadly the summer holidays isn't just about lazy mornings though.
With screaming, fighting kids, horrible weather and limited funds the summer holidays has the potential to be hell on earth, on the other hand they can also provide your family with lots of contented family moments. It's all about perspective.
We all have different coping strategies and find our own unique ways to survive the summer with style, I had planned on writing a survival guide but then on reflection I realized that what works for me won't necessarily work for you. So in true Contented Family style, I asked for help. I put the question out there to fellow mums and got some fabulous golden nuggets of advice that I am happy to share with you here.
The ideas have been so good that I am now going to introduce this crowd sourcing technique to create a tip based post every month. They will be entitled Ask the Parenting Experts, not because these mums have written parenting books or have their own supper nanny shows but because they are the experts; they are parents.
So here it is; top 7 tips on surviving the summer holidays...
• Connect with our children more and with Wi-Fi less.
Stephanie Jane Hemsted is a child minder based in Stoke on Trent. She tells us to turn off for even as little as 15 minutes so that we can direct all that time to the children. She also advises getting out into nature, after all "it is just a classroom with no roof"
• Learn to play
Kelly McWilliam is the founder of KMW Training. Helping Adults to Understand Children. She tells us we should learn to play, be silly act daft and watch our children's faces light up as a result. She gives us some great ideas of games to play too including Hide and seek, treasure hunt, dress up, den building and role play. Kelly wants us all to remember a game we loved as a child and play it with our own kids this summer. "We have so many rules and responsibilities, we need let go and have more fun. It is one of the best things we can give to our kids."
• Make a list of free activities in advance
Francesca Ross the creator of Kung Fu Writer children's app reminds us that lots of activities can be costly so to prepare for this we could make a list of various things that can be done for free including nature walks, park visits and free museums, of course this should include things to accommodate rainy day 's and our British weather! Francesca thinks that if our children are old enough we can compile the list with them. Each idea could then be cut up and put in a jar. Every time you have free time the jar is then there for inspiration. This idea also has the potential to avoid arguments!
• Be Kind to Yourself
Michelle Childs founder of the Mum's in Business network, Bizmums tells us all to be kind to ourselves. "Set your expectations you will only be able to do urgent jobs and that is OK. Everything else can and will wait."
• Plan Breaks
Francesca Guiditta Elonora Manca a Forever Living Consultant reflects on the importance of planning breaks and time off AT LEAST once a week. She suggests putting in time to go for a run, do some yoga or go for a swim. The important thing here is to get some "Me" time. Francesca also recognizes the value of eating our own greens and not just encouraging the kids to; "stay nourished and hydrated, drink plenty of water and eat protein, vegetables and fresh fruit. This will reduce the sluggish feeling experienced after eating sugars and carbs and will keep you active and ready to play all day long."
Her last nugget is my personal favourite, "Keep vino and chocolate ginger biscuits out of children's reach, but always within yours."
• Drop the Guilt
Sarah Macdonald creator of the designer dog poo bags tells us that feeling guilty doesn't achieve anything. Be realistic about what you can achieve and break up blocks of work with activities for the children.
• Get organised beforehand
South Wales Reflexology practitioner Emma Burns has a plan. She is going to print out in A4 weekly calendars and then find out who's available and wants to meet up. Obviously this is weather depending but she believes this will help her feel more organised and ahead of the game. She plans on lots of PJ and film mornings as well as 'go for a walk' mornings too. She also intends of planning 'friends for tea' swaps to free up sometime when they return the visit to their friends.
And from me
Contented parenting isn't striving for perfection; it's accepting the imperfections and taking action to put happiness first. When we make our emotions our priority then everything else slots into place. You can plan six weeks of super fun packed activities but if your mind-set is anxious, frustrated, flustered or sad it won't be fun for you at all. Don't forget, Kids pick up on your emotions, if you think you can buy them an amazing summer think again, the best you can give your children is a present and contented parent.
As a Parent Well Being Coach I am offering a special summer holiday coaching program for those parents feeling anxious about managing their emotions during the holiday's ahead. I only have 3 slots left and your first non-obligation call is completely free. Follow this link for more information.
Thank you to all my contributors, you are all parenting experts to me!