Just when you think you have got it all together – you’re remembering which days the kids have to take their library bags (and the books!) to school, which day they wear sport uniform and all the other things related to school life – it changes. It’s called school holidays!
For some this is a welcome break from routine, a chance to take a family holiday, sleep in and not have to pack school lunches. For others – it is a potential disaster. Working parents generally only get 4 weeks’ holiday a year – but school holidays last about 10 – 12 weeks of the year. Also, school provides lots of activity for kids – and they have their friends to play with. So what to do?
Everyone handles the school holidays differently. From child care to activity planning, to planning the return to school – there are lots of options. Following are 7 tips that I use (mostly!) to keep myself sane whilst managing school holidays.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
At least 2 weeks before the school holidays start, I try to get a BIG calendar and start plotting out the important things: kid activities with friends and family, scheduled rest time and the name of the responsible adult caring for the children each day.
To ensure my children will be happy with the plans, I try to get them involved. I ask them what they want to do, check what movies are screening and exhibitions are on, ask what friends they want to have playdates with and if anything else is important to them.
It’s also really important for me to make sure that I don’t schedule activities every day. I like to let my kids get a little bit bored. It allows them to rest, encourages creative thinking – and can make them excited when it’s time to return to school.
2. Nominate the responsible adult
It’s all well and good to have a heap of fun (and boring!) days planned, but someone has to be the responsible adult.
As I work pretty much full time running my own business it is not possible to take 2 weeks off without financial consequences. Therefore, I need to make sure I can share the responsibility. I know this is also the case for many employed people. For me this means my children are cared for by a combination of me, my husband, holiday program activities, extended family members and sometimes swapping a day with another parent with kids the same ages. It’s important for me to have a range of options so my kids are happy, I don’t over use any option and we keep costs to a minimum.
3. Talk to your employer
If you are employed I encourage you to speak to your employer (and the rest of your team) well in advance of the school holidays. In my case this means talking to myself!
Perhaps you can make an arrangement to work reduced hours each day during the holidays, or you might like to purchase extra leave from your employer to allow you to spend more time with your children during school holidays. I do a combination of this – I take some whole days off (just checking emails a few times a day), and work shorter hours on the other days. It is not uncommon to find that I get more work done in those shorter hours than I do in my longer days.
4. Take a break
School holidays can feel quite intense. For me, in order to be the best mum I can be and make sure that I can give the best of myself to my kids during school holidays, I sometimes need to take a break.
In our family, a great way to do this is by arranging for my kids to have a sleep over with one of their aunties. Not only do I get a break, my kids get a chance to spend some quality time with extended family and develop bonds that I know will stand them in good stead their whole lives.
Another way is often just doing whatever the kids are doing, or being nearby. For example, if they are having a craft day I can sit with them and do some colouring in – it really is fun! Or perhaps they are all playing outside and just want to know I’m nearby, so I will pull up a chair and take a book outside. A bit of vitamin D with your adult supervision.
5. Prepare for the return to school early!
There is nothing worse than getting to the day before school goes back and realising that the school bags are full of things that shouldn’t be there. Pieces of school uniform, notes from the school and worst of all – mouldy food! Squashed banana anyone?
To avoid this horrible circumstance, I like to make the first day of school holidays (or preferably the last day of school) about preparing for the first day back to school. Make sure the school bags are totally emptied and wiped out, all uniforms are in the washing basket for the next machine load, shoes are polished and lunchboxes are clean.
You might just want to relax when school ends (the kids usually do), but there is a lot of pleasure that comes from knowing you are prepared and won’t be caught out and stressed the day before school returns.
6. Make a checklist and check it twice.
School holidays are an opportunity to check up and plan for all those things kids need that we, and they, are usually too busy to do during school term. Haircuts, buying new school shoes or uniforms, or perhaps there is some school activity that you need to make a costume for.
If you are looking down the long barrel of the summer holidays, there will also be all the new items required for the new school year. If you aren’t taking the easy online option make sure you set aside a day to go buy all the things at once. Then you need to create a safe place in your house to store it all so the kids don’t go nuts with the new stationery before school starts.
7. Have the day off!
That’s right! After the craziness of school holidays I like to give myself the day off the first day the kids go back to school. You could use it for whatever you want to do to celebrate surviving another round of holidays.
I’ll admit here that this is not something that I am good at. Usually I am straight back to work trying to catch up. However, this is a goal that I have and one that I feel is worth achieving. I mean – who ever feels caught up? It is just not possible. So why not plan a day out to relax and recharge.