Friday, 8 July 2016

A Real Parenting Guide for the Summer Holidays

Confessions of a Summer Parent

I adore my little people. But six weeks of unadulterated entertaining over the long summer holidays can take its toll on even the most dedicated parent. At first I am all eager and enthusiastic, planning themed activity weeks and encouraging the children to keep exciting holiday scrapbooks to document the well thought out day trips and character building experiences I have scheduled.  Within a few days, however, my highly motivated mothering gives way to a slightly more apathetic approach where laptops and iPad's feature much more heavily than the eco-friendly, super creative, mind expanding art project that I had in mind. A few days of rain and a few hundred 'what can we do now' comments and we are watching Peppa Pig on a loop and eating Pot Noodles for lunch. 

So, what is the answer when it comes to balancing your sanity while keeping the children happy during the long summer break?

Simple. Trick them into having the sort of fun that serves the secondary purpose of making your life that little bit easier. They will unknowingly be doing something useful and beneficial to you, while having a good time. 

  • Grab a big bucket of soapy water and a handful of sponges and excitedly sing the praises of wet play and making bubbles. Then point the kids in the direction of the patio furniture and watch in glee as one of those horrible summer jobs you've been putting off  gets completed under the guise of having some super, splashy sensory fun. If this works out well, you can escalate the 'game' to include washing the family car.

  • Get them in the kitchen for some exciting pizza making. Give them ready prepared bases, tomato puree, grated cheese and a range of toppings. Throw a few Italian phrases into the mix and get them shouting out 'Buon Appetito' and 'Multo Bene' to get them in the mood, while you sit back with a glass of Italian Chianti. Bingo...they are kept occupied and they get fed in the process.  And that's one less meal that you have to prepare! Win win!

  • When the Lego box has been tipped out for the umpteenth time and the paraphernalia for the teddy bear's tea party is strewn across the floor mixed in with the felt tips, crayons and colouring books that had kept the kids quiet for five minutes earlier, you have two choices. You can scream and shout and pull your hair out as you survey the extreme mess that has been generated or you can unleash your inner Mary Poppins and make a game out of tidying up. As Ms Poppins so rightly said "in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job's a game!" So instead of turning the chaotic scene of playtime devastation into a parenting warzone, give the kids a challenge. Who can pick up the most toys and put them back in the right box the fastest?! Hum the tune of  a "Spoonful of Sugar" as you watch your mini-mes compete to be the fastest tidier upper! Dangling a carrot (well maybe not an actual carrot, maybe a biscuit would be a more appropriate treat) and the whirling dervishes of destruction will put their energy into something useful. If they are really enjoying their tidying, extend the fun by popping a duster in their hand and watch as they do the housework.

  • Sometimes, you just want some peace and quiet. But kids need to let off steam and get physical or they'll be up past their bed times hyperactive and twitching with unspent energy. So it's time to have a silent disco! Headphones on, iPods playing, listening to Britney or Bieber or 'Let It Go' on repeat, the kids can dance as manically as they want to in absolute silence. (Remind them of the no singing rule before embarking on this or you'll have a cacophony of tuneless, overly loud voices, shouting their way through an assortment of songs simultaneously. No one ever needs to experience that!) They will wear themselves out in a noiseless fashion just in time for bed.

  • During the summer holidays, other parents can become your greatest allies. They are going through the exact same situation as you are and will be crying out for a hand of friendship and assistance to help them through the six weeks of child juggling. This is the perfect opportunity to initiate an unofficial childcare exchange. Invite some of your little one's pals over to play one afternoon. Prepare well for the onslaught of extra kids, providing some garden based activities and an outdoor picnic (keeping them outdoors means less tidying up indoors and the birds will eat the crumbs from lunch!) Then sit back as your good deed is repaid by way of future play date invitations from your little guests' parents. So that one afternoon of mayhem could be reciprocated with four or five child free days over the next few weeks. A fair exchange by anyone's standards!

  • Never underestimate the power of bribery! We can all strive to do our best, but we also have to be honest when it comes to our limitations. Sometimes we need a bit of leverage for ensuring the desired outcome when it comes to parenting. Kids love the concept of being rewarded for doing good things, most schools adopt a reward system, so embracing this idea at home can be a great tool for the summer. Get a nice jar and a big pack of marbles and tell the kids that whenever they have been super good they will be rewarded by popping a marble in the jar. (Naughty behaviour can also result in the removal of a marble if you want to exert maximum power!) When the jar is filled with marbles they can get a treat such as a cinema trip or a day at the zoo. The visual effect of the jar filling with shiny, colourful marbles will capture the kids' imaginations and hopefully inspire best behaviour. What the kids don't know, is that you would probably have taken them to the zoo or the cinema anyway (anything to get out of the house!) but if you can use this bribery reward scheme to your advantage, then why not!

However you cope this summer, I hope you all manage to have some family fun and make some wonderful memories together. Come September, we will hold on to the magical moments and all the bad bits will be forgotten, as we pack our little ones off to school, and we may even shed a tear from behind our rose tinted glasses.

"This post is an entry for the BritmumsConfession of a Summer Parent Challenge sponsored by Anchor."

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