Surviving the School Summer Break: 5 tips for busy (or working) parents
Updated: Aug 10
Hello Everyone - let's welcome the warm summer season and how lovely to actually describe it as “warm”! As a poet once said, "Summer can warm even the coldest heart". However, even with social distancing being lifted in many parts of the world, we have to face the truth: COVID-19 blew away our expectations as regards the summer holidays. Thus, with this global issue shutting down most leisure centres and other usual structured activities, children who would normally be shuttled to a holiday camp or sports centre can now be seen riding bikes on the streets, spending pleasant hours at parks and in open spaces. As a result, househusbands and housewives can enjoy the summer with their kids. However, if you are a working parent, you might be asking yourself: how am I going to survive the rest of this summer break?
Well, even assuming each family has 2 working parents, that still leaves at least two or three weeks when alternative arrangements must be made. I have been talking with other friends who also are working parents, and the usual comment is: "Being a working mum/dad is already hard, but Covid-19 made it even harder". However, there is no doubt that mums are often disproportionately responsible for housework and childcare, and that’s even more challenging if they’re working. But maybe I can help you in some way: I found several tips on surviving the school summer break, especially for working parents:
1) Don’t wait until the last minute to talk to your manager: Nowadays, all companies need to be open to flexible working, and it is not a "gender-based" issue. Flexible working isn’t just a women’s matter – both parents, and even non-parents, need to be trusted by their employers to manage their time. A great part of employers understand the challenges of managing the summer holidays and will have some sort of arrangements made for working parents, especially now due to the Covid-19 issue. Bring this topic to the table, request flexible or deviated hours, and if your company doesn’t already have a flexible work set-up, it might be worth asking if your manager would consider it.
2) Try to keep some sort of routine and get your "housekeeping team organized"
Think about the practical implications of putting loads of activities in their daily schedule; I know that sometimes we can often end up spending a lot of time planing endless activities for our children, and we have to keep in mind that boredom can actually be really positive for kids. To make the free time effective, we just need to create a flexible and productive plan for all family; for example, getting up at 7 every day. After breakfast, "housekeeping together" - do you think that is it possible? It is possible if you plan age-appropriate activities, for example, for the age group of 2 to 4: pick up toys, dust playroom, set table, put shoes away, make their beds, wipe off doorknobs and light switches, wipe cupboard faces; then ages 5-9: dust furniture and shelves, clean room, wipe table, clear table, rinse dishes, dust, wash sinks; and from age 10 onwards: vacuum, wash toilets, wash floors. I hope this encourages you to trust your cleaning instincts, make a plan of attack, keep your children in the game, and enjoy keeping your home tidy and organised. Perhaps you can offer something in return, such as ice cream (the weekend is for ice cream, don't you think?!). What about 2 or 3 generous scoops?
3) Plan ahead:
Plan your day to avoid the stress of panicking during the day with children with full batteries at home! It's important to keep the children moving all summer long!! Right? So here's how you do it! Every week or every day, sit down as a family and come up with one big thing each person would like to do. It will get easier as you plan to incorporate some kids' activities into your time together: remember that what's most important about quality time is what comes after. Another important thing: if you are creative, it can be low-cost or cost-free - I wrote a post about this. As a dad, I can say that kids can have so much fun by playing with simple and not expensive toys, such as: cooking, baking, gardening, craft. Just choose one thing and I am sure that it will bring your family closer. 4) Worry less about children's screen use We just need to be careful when we are interpreting this kind of information: as a PhD candidate and as a parent, I have read several articles stating that mums and dads should worry less as long as they have gone through a checklist on the effect of screen time on their child; personally I think that the most important thing is "content quality" than "quantity". Therefore, don’t feel bad about occasionally sticking the TV on if you need to – your kids won’t complain. Also, we have to bear in mind that in an age of online homeschooling, virtual play-dates (by WhatsApp calls with parents' phone) and online chats with relatives, the quality of the content that our kids are accessing is more important than ever. This is not just my opinion, but several organisations are stating the same. I read an interesting "Common Sense report" on this. Also, it is noted that technology can benefit children when used appropriately.
5) Ask for help
I am sure you have friends with kids, and probably they are in the same situation as you. Contact them and suggest making a schedule to rotate the collective children around your house and their houses. Also, family and relatives can be really supportive; for example, grandparents usually love getting to spend time with their grandchildren without you. But be sensible: do not spoil their summer plans. Perhaps you can offer something in return, such as gardening for your parents or help them when with the house decoration when you have free time.
Above all remember:
Spending time with your family is more important than ever, and good family time is about sharing great moments together and creating bonds and attachments. Therefore, your children will feel they belong in your family and have routines and traditions. It is not just a list of "list of to dos" or "don't dos", nor about imposing restrict rules, but simply a more enjoyable way of being together. Let's take a moment to reflect to consider what our kids really need in order to grow into responsible, resilient and happy adults, with healthy bodies and creative brains, and what we might have been missing as a family group because of the long shifts to pay for some fancy holidays or summer camps. Maybe what they actually needed all along was less time with "people from outside" our household and more time quality time with us, mums and dads.
My final words: Stay safe, keep positive, look after your family ( & look after yourself too) and have a lovely summer. I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list!
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