Way back at the beginning of the year I cruelly wrote a post about how fantastic school holidays are for families. Today I want to right a wrong. Maybe they are a bit hard going sometimes… keeping everybody happy, a fair quota of playdates, outings, fun. So here are some tips on enjoying the holidays with your children, even if you're not on leave for as long as the kids.
This can be a tough one to do, because we are all so busy. But give your children, and you too, time to go slowly. Whether it be not rushing them out of bed, up and dressed, or letting them faff about for a bit longer when getting ready for bed. Slow it all down. Avoid overbooking calendars (did you just hear my husband shout "hypocrite"?) There is good evidence for this as well. Lea Waters writes "Good goofing off acts as a bridge between directed attention, when people are laser focused on something specific, and mindfulness, when people actively notice the thoughts that arise during free-form attention." And if you're out and about, try walking at half your usual pace. Just wander. You may find this really hard to do at first but it's amazing how calming it is.
The holidays are a great time to promote autonomy in your children. This can be done by allowing choices, and explaining what your expectations are. It can also be done by giving children responsibilities. By giving children responsibility and autonomy, we are developing their ability to be self-determined and they learn to prioritise. I have a five-year-old who is about to start school, so his responsibility 'levelling up' for the holidays will be pretty basic – clean his room, make his bed, attempt to tidy up and so on.Of course it's not a great idea to give the kids jobs that have to be nagged over on an hourly basis and, if you ensure they are age appropriate, you'll be surprised at the take-up. For teens, it could be doing their own laundry because, sure enough, if they don't do it they'll feel it when they can't find that fave t-shirt.If this is the first time your child is going to be doing something, remember to show them how to do it. For instance, if you are going to add cooking to the repertoire, teach them a favourite recipe or just a few basics first (wash your hands, clear your work surfaces, get your ingredients ready, a big pot for pasta). Giving your child responsibilities and autonomy has been shown to increase self-esteem, self-regulation, and improve impulse control. Remember the responsibility you are promoting should also make parenting easier, which will be helpful during the busiest times of the year as well as during the holidays.
Dive in too
If you have more time during the holidays, get involved in what your children are doing. Even if this is watching a TV show, ask them about it, talk about what the characters are going to do, and what your child thinks about it. Find an activity you and your daughter can do together – it could be a craft (a learn-to-crochet or knit class, have I mentioned how much I love crochet?), enrol in a short fitness course or simply a dedicated 'me and you' time. Studies have shown that being present and engaged in what children are doing leads to an increased belief in their own competence, improved relatedness and social skills and improved emotional control.
If you are a father, really try to dedicate time to having good conversations with your daughter these holidays. In her most recent book, 'Fathers and Daughters' Madonna King argues that fathers are finding a glass ceiling exists in their relationships with their daughters in the same way women do in the corporate world. A way to help crack through that ceiling is to ensure fathers have one-on-one time with their daughters that will allow time for the awkward silence to pass and real conversations to occur. So walk together to get coffee, or go for a run, or a meandering drive.
Do a bit of forest bathing
Whether it is at the park, at the beach, or on a bush walk. Find more excuses to go outside. We all know walking 15 to 30 minutes a day can have huge impacts on our physical and mental health but doing so when surrounded by nature (not concrete) can have an even greater effect. Spending time in nature has also been linked to increased life expectancy and mental wellbeing. So grab that Instagrammer, gamer or couch potato and stroll through a park, along a beach, or through the bush (hint: leave the phone at home). Even reading outside or taking a nap on the lawn can be good for you. The Japanese term shinrin-yoku or 'forest bathing' – which can involve anything from lying on some grass for an hour or so to spending a few nights under the stars – has been shown to have great impact on people's wellbeing.
So over to you. Enjoy your slow time, I know I will.
Daisy Turnbull Brown Director of Positive Psychology | History Teacher B Arts B Com Grad Dip Ed MA (Theology ) Follow our dedicated Positive Psychology Twitter account: @StCathsPosPsy
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