Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Don't make school holidays hard work!

As one of my earlier posts was titled, I love holidays and when i was a mother of young children, I loved school holidays:
  • no waking to the alarm
  • no making school lunches
  • set routines out the window
  • time to do things together with the children
  • time to visit other families. 
And yet for as long as I can remember the media warns of school holidays as if parents, and mothers in particular needed to be prepared to have a horrible time with their children at home.  It was almost as if children were little monsters who needed to be at school to protect their long-suffering parents.

Now, with more mothers in the workforce, I acknowledge that school holidays can bring issues:
  • supervision of children when parents are at work
  • the cost of school holiday programs
  • the difficulty getting employers to have flexible leave problems for working parents
  • the frequent assumption that it is the mother who will take annual leave to care for the children...dads are parents too!
I know that I grew up in less affluent, more innocent times, but we were lucky to have one special treat during the holidays: maybe a trip to the movies to see the latest Disney production, or a trip into the city to go to the museum. The rest of our time was spent playing, inside and outside, reading, going around to a friend's place or perhaps when we were older an outing with friends to the city without parental supervision, a time to try the lipsticks in the department stores, have a milkshake or a hamburger and chips, look at clothes, and of course admire any groups of boys we saw, giggling for all we were worth.  Maybe my children expected more than this, but apart from the odd swimming class or football clinic, their holidays were rather like mine except watching TV was thrown into the mix.

I am surprised today though, that some children and families don't seem to have a down time, that school holidays are jammed full of activities, classes, outings.  There doesn't seem to be time to just hang, to play alone or with friends.  I'm not sure what drives this need to fill every minute.  Is it that parents don't want to spend time with their children?  Or is it a sign of how much you care for your children that you want to take advantage of every minute for enrichment and stimulation?

It certainly seems to me that the result is children who cannot amuse themselves or find things to do. I think too that they are becoming restless unless they are constantly stimulated or entertained.  My answer to "I'm bored" used to be, "Only boring people are bored" then I might explore with them what they would like to do so they didn't feel bored any longer, but the onus was on them to come up with the solutions, and the most successful ones usually involved some level of physical activity or involvement with other people.

It is important I think for children to learn that they can make changes in what they are doing that then change how they are feeling.  I'm not sure that they get this opportunity when their life is crowded by activity, often organised by adults.

So my advice, for what it's worth, is to enjoy holiday times with the children, have fun together and don't cram every minute with entertainment and activity!

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