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Surviving the Summer Holidays

If you are a parent of school-aged children, the summer holidays can fill you with dread. Staring at six long weeks that you know you need to fill with, well, something, can generate a catalogue of questions. How will I manage to work? How can I keep them occupied without overspending? How will we all get on as a family? The pressure of these questions is only heightened when you are a single parent. We hope that these tips might ease the pressure and help you actually enjoy the summer holidays.

What about work?

Holiday Clubs

There are many schools, charities and community groups that run free or highly discounted holiday clubs for children from low-income families. If you think this may apply to you, visit your local council website for information about what is on offer and how to apply. Local churches may also be running holiday clubs very inexpensively.

Church family

Last summer, I messaged a number of friends from my church to see if they would look after my daughter for a few hours so I could work. So many said yes – families whose children thought it was marvellous to have a friend over for a play date, single people who enjoyed being a surrogate grandparent/auntie/uncle for the day. It might just be worth an ask, you never know!

What about activities?

Is it sunny?

God has made a beautiful world for us to enjoy – whether that's in our back garden, local park, countryside or beach – and it is His free gift to us! Here are some ideas:

  • Picnic in the garden, chalk drawing on the patio/walls, dust off the paddling pool, bring toys and books to a shady spot outside – suddenly Lego feels new and fresh when it’s in the sunshine.
  • Visit the local park – play in the playground, kick a football, ride a bike/scooter, do a scavenger hunt, build a den.
  • Get your walking boots and take a box or bag with you to collect berries or elderflower. Make some jam or elderflower cordial when you get home.
  • Bring a picnic and a spade to a sandy beach and have a sand sculpture competition.

Is it rainy?

Look up local museums and art galleries online – many of them are free or low cost – and I’ve often found that in my area, they will put on extra activities for children during the school holidays.

Local libraries are often hubs to find out what’s going on in the local area for families, as well as running lots of free activities for children.

Enjoy a lazy day at home – dig out everyone’s favourite board game, or the new jigsaw they got at Christmas but haven’t opened. Have a family movie night. Draw, paint, craft, bake together.

What about relationships?

With the children

Summer holidays are a wonderful opportunity for precious family time, but spending more time together can inevitably increase the likelihood of frustrations and arguments between siblings and between children and parents. Some things that may help:

  • Pray alone and together with your children. Talk about how we can love one another well over the summer.
  • Involve the children in making plans for activities. Try to create a balance between different children’s interests and preferences.
  • Fight the myth of the supermum! You do not need to fill every moment of every day. Your children need you and they also need space; they need stimulation and they also need quiet. Look after yourself, take time out when you need – perhaps family movie time might need to be nap time for you some days!

With the other parent

If your children still have contact with the other parent, it is likely that they will spend a longer stretch of time away from you over the summer holidays. My daughter will be spending two weeks with her dad for the first time this summer. This is what I’m planning to do to help me feel less anxious:

Clear communication

  • Ensure handover days, times and locations are arranged
  • Set expectations about what I am packing for her and what he is providing
  • Firm boundaries
  • Responding succinctly and dispassionately when boundaries are being pushed (e.g. trying to change arrangements last minute)

Remember DEEP:

  • Don’t Defend
  • Don’t Engage
  • Don’t Explain
  • Don’t Personalise

Rest in the Lord

Pray before, pray when I get a pang of anxiety about how she is, trust that the Lord loves her even more than I do.

Take the time to rest – do something for me that I can’t do when she is with me. Recharge and enjoy some self-care.

This blog was written by Becky, a member of our Survivors' Network.

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