We seem to have reached breaking point!
Apparently mid-August is the point in the school summer holidays at which parents finally snap. We thought this would be a good time for some more tips to help you make it to the end of the summer holiday.
We know only too well how the cries of boredom, siblings squabbles and cabin fever finally become too much, reducing us to piles of mush rocking in a corner.
So, as always, we’re here to help! These tips are helpful for regulating both our precious lambkins and ourselves.
A different summer
This is the first summer where I have worked through, having previously been a teacher and enjoyed a pretty relaxed August. I don’t have a massive support network of relatives and so have relied on holiday clubs and play-schemes for childcare. This has been a massive shock in a number of ways.
First the financial implications – WOW! I am pretty much working through August just to finance said clubs which, by the way, never seem to have hours that mirror the working day (why?).
Secondly, and most revelatory – I am SO MUCH LESS STRESSED! As I am not in the constant company of Smallest Lambkin, I am at the end of week five of the summer hols and still quite like him. In terms of regulating myself, I am currently counting work as self-care! Finally, I have a child who is actually sleeping because he is completely warn out will all the ‘fun’.
I always firmly subscribed to the mantra of ‘Children only have 18 precious summer, don’t waste them’ and with my oldest two children, I spent every day of every summer with them, intent on making memories – frolicking in the fields, picnics in the woods, endless activities and fun! In hindsight, I spent so much time worrying about the ‘perfect’ childhood summers that I ended up crabby, frustrated, disappointed and deflated. I was consumed by guilt around being a ‘proper’ mummy.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? I know now that the perfect summer is about connection, moments, safety and regulation. By working, I feel more able to parent compassionately (mainly because the idea of 6 full-time weeks of Smallest Lambkin’s current Match of the Day obsession would finish me off).
Back to the point of the blog I go…
5 tips for summer holiday sanity
The last few years, those as an adoptive parent, have shown me that regulation is the key to making it to the end of the summer holiday.
Whatever is happening, wherever we are, if I can see we are all regulated then I know all will be well – so here are my Top Five Tips:
1. Regulate yourself first
Whether that be by enjoying a peaceful walk in your work lunch hour, a top notch coffee, a swim at the gym or five minutes hiding in the loo at home stalking people on Facebook. Put your oxygen mark on first before helping others.
2. Plan for chill days
We live such fast paced lives that sometimes we just forget to stop. The summer holiday is the perfect opportunity to redress this.
Let them stay in PJs all day, play on the computer game, watch TV, swing in a hammock, read a book, eat rubbish food. Teach them to be bored and to enjoy their own company.
We have begun to have two minute pit stops throughout our day where we just stop and concentrate on breathing. My watch has a visual for this and there are loads of videos on the internet. This seems to help in preventing meltdown, breaking cycles of behaviour and preparing for changes to routine.
4. Look at what the behaviour is telling you
- Can you see sensory patterns in behaviour?
- Do your children want sweets because they enjoy chewing or sucking to regulate?
- Does your child sit still on a chair?
- Do they need to rock, swing, jump?
Trial and error will help to find activities that regulate your child. For us it is access to a gym ball for sitting on, rolling on, bouncing on – the feedback from the body helps to regulate the mind too.
We have a hammock in the garden because ever since he arrived, Small Lambkin has been drawn towards swinging activities at the park. Ten minutes lying in the hammock, gently swinging and listening to the sounds of the garden (usually while playing on the Switch) has a super calming effect and – Hallelujah – lambkin now recognises this and takes himself off to the hammock
5. Negotiate a Safe Space for each family member to escape to…
…and a signal with your partner, so they know when you need a minute to yourself.
Small Lambkin has taken to using his bedroom for this very recently and this is signalled with a loud door slam. Slamming doors is a massive trigger for my partner and he has had to learn to pick his battles as this expression of anger is so much more preferable to other potential outlets!
Reverse reward charts
This year, we all have a ‘reverse’ reward chart. Each of us identified one thing that triggers us about another family member. I picked Small Lambkin, he picked Dad. Dad picked me. The issues were:
- Lambkin’s pedantic disagreeing – eg. I say ‘I got soaked.’ He replies with ‘No, you just got very wet’
- Dad’s shouty voice
- Mum looking at her phone when someone is talking to her
We each made a reward chart for our chosen family member. Mine states that I get a sticker for each time Small Lambkin contradicts someone.
When 5 stickers are earned – reward for Mum – One ice cream
When 10 stickers are earned – Reward for Mum – Watch an episode of her favourite programme uninterrupted
When 15 stickers are earned – Reward for Mum – Coffee with a friend
When 20 Stickers are earned – Reward for Mum – Day out of her choice
This is working really well as the rewards I have chosen are designed to annoy Small Lambkin so he won’t want me to earn them. At the same time, we are all getting a chance to change an unwanted behaviour in each other. If nothing else, it makes me feel as if I at least have control of something in life!
Have a good week!