We all look forward to our holidays – a break from routine, relaxing and fun. Six weeks or more of holidays with children are to some parents a joy, to others a challenge and generally a bit of both.
Simplicity is the key with younger children. They love picnics in the garden or the park, playing with more available parents than usual, having friends over (and friends’ parents for some adult company for you!), playing in a sandpit or a paddling pool. You don’t have to spend a fortune and indeed over-stimulation is often difficult for children to manage. They can respond with over-excitement and tempers.
With older children, opportunities to take time with them over a project could be taken. The years with them are precious before they become too old to want to spend time with you! Art projects, sports activities, whatever you and your child like, can be put in the diary and looked forward to. Again, book days out for you and your children to see friends.
What about when you and your child just can’t make things work? There might be days when your child feels exhausting, demanding and difficult. Some children don’t respond well to change. The change from school routine to holiday routine can be hard for some children. And then to go on holiday to a different place, with different beds, food and routines, can feel really hard.
If your child is like this, it can be really helpful to prepare for a holiday. You can make a chart with your child so there is a visual reminder, with days to count down. You can refer to it each day and give your child an opportunity to talk about any worries. They might worry about what will happen to pets or even teddies if the family leave the house. Quite primitive fears can be aroused with changes. With any change comes a loss, a sense of moving on and leaving something behind, but also an opportunity for development. Even a change of routine can trigger anxious responses.
One child I worked with, on arriving at the family’s holiday home, asked her mother if they were going to live there now. They had moved six months previously and the child had no internal sense of having a secure base, as she had not yet settled into the new home. Things we take for granted need to be thought about for children.
With thoughtful preparation and a good bit of organising, holidays can be very precious times, where memories are laid down and family relationships grow and develop. It is a time for rules to be broken and special times to be had. Above all, take time for you to relax in the middle of it all. Enjoy!
Dr Angela Evans
Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
Member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists