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6 Mins

Managing summer holiday stress

August 22, 2022

According to a survey run by national charity The Reading Agency, 40% of parents and carers feel stress, anxiety or dread when thinking about the school summer holidays. It’s a few weeks into the break now, and it’s possible that boredom may be creeping in, tempers are fraying and inspiration around ‘things to do’ is running dry!

Of course, every family’s situation will be different, depending on how many kids are at home, how old they are, who’s at home with them – and whether they’re juggling childcare with work, and whether there’s support from grandparents or summer activity clubs for example. Financial pressures can also put a strain on things, particularly these days. It’s also true that what causes one person stress may not affect someone else in the same way.

Here are some tips that might help make the holidays easier and more fun for everyone (yes, you’re entitled to enjoy the summer too!)

Work out where the ‘stressful moments’ are, and what triggers them. Is it bedtime? Meal times? When you’re deciding what to do? When siblings are spending lots of time together? Think about what changes you could put in place before or during those moments to make things better.

Recognise there’s no such thing as ‘the perfect summer’. If you find yourself worrying that “we haven’t done anything fun today”, or you’re comparing yourself with other families who always seem to be out and about having the best time, consider whether you’re putting yourself under too much pressure. What are your expectations of yourself, and of the holidays? Are your expectations reasonable, fair or helpful? How realistic are those ‘perfect’ social media posts likely to be?

Allow a little boredom! Rather than pushing yourself to keep the kids happy and entertained every minute of the day, give them free rein sometimes to amuse themselves. This is when they’ll have the chance to get creative and let their imaginations run free, or just to recharge away from the endless activities and schedules of their school days.

Get together and talk. Clear communication and mutual understanding is really important. You could have a ‘team meeting’ where you discuss expectations for the rest of the holidays. Ask: What would everyone like to experience? How can we make sure we do that? Is there anything that won’t be possible? Set some ground rules together if necessary, and agree to let each other know – kindly and calmly – if someone crosses the line.

Keep checking in regularly. Ongoing communication is important. Sometimes things won’t go as planned, arguments will blow up, someone will upset somebody else. The trick is to keep talking, and reconnecting. If there’s tension, bickering or impatience in the air, pause, step back, and ask yourself what it’s really about. If a child seems to be misbehaving, this might just be wilful, but they could also be worried, confused or tired. If you think this might be the case, make time to calmly talk to them about what’s going on.

Look after your own mind. The feelings of younger children are strongly linked with their parents’, and they take their cues from you. If you’re not calm, you’ll struggle to get them calm. It’s OK to step away from a situation – for instance, an argument – and decompress. Get into a calmer state, and then go back.

Be kind to yourself. If you consider you’ve slipped up, or fallen below your own standards as a parent, exercise some self-compassion. You’re juggling a lot.

Be a broken record. This is an assertiveness technique that will help with maintaining a clear boundary. For example, if you’ve agreed that bedtime will be 8pm, and the kids are pushing you to let them stay up, it’s easy for this to escalate into an argument or negotiation, especially if you’re tired and frazzled. Instead, keep saying “no” and “I’m not going to change my mind” – firmly but kindly – using the same words and the same tone. This consistency will reinforce the boundary, while keeping things calm.

We shared some general tips for managing stress in this earlier blog. If you think you might be experiencing chronic stress – when you’ve been suffering the effects over a prolonged period of time – it might be worth seeking support. Find out how online CBT with ieso is used to treat stress here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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