Tuesday 27 September 2016

Dr. Ciara Kelly: How to survive the rest of the summer holidays without losing your reason

When it comes to thinking up fun things to do, it's OK sometimes to leave children to their own devices

Ciara Kelly

Published 27/07/2015 | 02:30

Don't even attempt to fill every day with activities and outings!
Don't even attempt to fill every day with activities and outings!
Even William Brown and his two gangs didn't get into too serious scrapes

Is it the 26th of July already? Sure the school holidays are half over! Depending on your perspective, that may be a cause of sadness or one of celebration.

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Because the school holidays, from a parent's point of view, are long with a capital L. Two to three months - depending on the age of your kids, of running battles about getting out of bed before lunchtime, rooms that need a bulldozer to tidy them and food that resembles science experiments strewn around your house.

 course many of you may not be in that zone and may love the freedom that school holidays allow: the lack of routine, the later starts, the absence of organising school lunches ("WHO ATE ALL THE HAM?")

But either way - much like retirement hits a marriage hard, no matter how strong or happy it is - looking at your family, all day, every day, is never good for you. As the fabled Mrs Figgis says "I've been packing that dishwasher for 25 years and he's off for three weeks and wants to teach me how to do it! It would drive you to drink."

No, this article isn't about how to keep your little poppets occupied so they have long fun-filled, memory-making days. This is about parents surviving their little darlings being under their feet all day, without losing their reason. Throw working parents into the mix and the juggle gets even more complicated. Throw children with special needs into the mix and the summer can be an incredibly difficult time.

So how not to pull out what little hair you have left? Well, first and most importantly - don't be too hard on yourself. We were all raised in an era when benign neglect was the order of the day and it's a cliche worth repeating - it didn't actually do us any harm. Allow - nay, force - your children into the garden with nothing much to do and it's amazing what they'll get up to after the initial cries of "I'm bored" are shut out by closing the door. Watch what they can do with an upside down table, with a rug thrown over it. It can occupy them for hours and has the double benefit of sheltering them from the elements. And if that isn't enough to entertain them - well, then they need to think up stuff themselves, for crying out loud.

Don't even attempt to fill every day with activities and outings! Plan maybe one or two a week and use them as a carrot you dangle in order to achieve tidy rooms and laundry moving.

Chores are not a punishment. They're a fact of life. Someone has to do them, and many hands make light work. Chores give your kids something to do, and sharing them out can ease your workload and make free time something to relish, not something to moan about. They also teach them a sense of responsibility and that their parents aren't doormats and have better things to do than repeatedly cart dirty socks downstairs.

You can also consider allowing your kids to go a bit further afield than they've been before. Can they walk to the shops or cycle to their friends' houses? If they're older, could they go camping? Some of your best childhood memories are of when you were left to your own devices to grapple with new challenges - don't deny your kids that.

Take time for yourselves. Don't forget that on top of what you normally do, you're now coping with an extra six hours of childcare a day - which isn't easy. So make sure you get out for a walk in the evening. Or get stuck into a good book or meet up with your mates. Summer parenting is exhausting!

Lastly for those oracles of child-rearing who don't have kids themselves but always know what actual parents are doing wrong and who read this and say "Why have kids if you don't want to mind them?" I say this; Feck off.

@ciarakellydoc

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