When the school holidays arrive, everything changes. We take a closer look at where the rules might get relaxed and whether it might be a good time to introduce new roles and responsibilities, and encourage new habits
From bedtimes and screen-time, to food choices and helping around the home, we've looked at ten common concerns and challenges you might face during the summer holidays. While we can't promise it'll help you decide what you should focus on or change, we do hope it offers some ideas you might like to consider...
Having more time at home means the possibility of contributing more. From feeding pets or helping with younger children, to lending a hand with the dishes and washing, there are opportunities for your teens to help out more and take on some more responsibilities around the house. At the start of the holidays consider drawing up a chart with everyone's responsibilities on it, that way everyone knows what's expected of them.
Never mind 'spring cleaning', when it comes to children, summer is often seen as a major time to have a tidy-up and clear out. While this urge to purge will probably include some ultimatums such as 'tidy it up, or it will get chucked out', it's the perfect time to get your teens to have a more general sort-out of old books, notes and clothes in preparation for the new school year.
The words 'summer slide' don't refer to the main attraction at a water-park, but the decline in academic ability that can happen due to the ol' grey matter not being tasked with term-time thinking and doing. With the best will in the world, whether you're 'asking', 'encouraging', or 'trying' to get your children to revisit weaker areas of schooling or continue with their instrument practise, it isn't easy making it happen. It may be simpler where children have their own motivations, such as sport or reading where there's less of a need for any enforcement, but on a practical note, you could consider a daily 'reward scheme', just to help oil the wheels.
Summer holidays can offer more opportunities to cook (or order-in), as well as the chance to try new foods. Rules often get relaxed when it comes to food and drink during the holidays as meal-times tend to differ from the normal term-time regime; with children typically going to bed later, and getting up later. It could be a good opportunity to involve your teens in a bit of meal prep or cooking - even if it's preparing a simple salad, every little helps!
Whilst screens do help to keep children occupied and alleviate boredom, with the long summer days and nights to fill, how much screen time and social media is too much? Understandably, many parents will allow more screen-time, social media and binge-watching during the holidays but it shouldn't be a total free-for-all. It's difficult to control and sometimes the only thing for it is the complete removal of devices. Harsh - but effective. Many parents also use screen-time as a bargaining tool - it could be a good opportunity to get those chores done! While you could allow more screen time during the day, consider a shut-down, switch-off, stay-away deadline come the evening.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, summertime bedtimes are more relaxed. Whether it's the fact that the evenings are lighter, later, or that there is more time for you and your children to enjoy activities together or with friends, the simple absence of school means later bedtimes are the norm. Mind that the hours don't get out of hand though and consider putting boundaries in place. Later bed times don't always mean later mornings and too many late nights can result in lost sleep hours and grumpy (or grumpier) teens!
As noted above, closely aligned to bedtimes, are lie-ins, and as surely as day follows night, lie-ins follow later bedtimes. How late is acceptable though? Again, this will be something you'll need to decide on and put boundaries in place for - everyone loves a lie-in, but getting up at midday every day might be a pushing it...
To some parents it might seem a quaint and old-fashioned concept, since their children's needs are usually met as and when they arise. Inevitably though, day-trips, day camps or summer camps require money. The requirement for extra money can be a great opportunity to link it with doing something to earn it - another way to get help with those household chores!
Again, linked to bedtimes, but of course this time with the added concern about being safe outside the home. With no school commitments, it's common for teens to have later nights out of the house, but it's advisable to set a curfew that you're happy with. This extends to pick-up times, so whether collecting from a friend's house, the shopping centre, or the cinema - highlight that they can have more flexibility and a later curfew than they're used to in term-time, but always be clear with what time you expect them to be home and that you're trusting them to be responsible enough to stick to it. Independence is great, but there are limits.
While certainly easier in the summer holidays, sleep-overs can be complicated; with questions around the logistics of getting home again the next day, which friends are involved, and the relationship with the corresponding family. Make sure you're happy with where they're going and that they're aware of any rules or limits. Ask for contact details - it doesn't matter how old your child is, you need to feel confident they're safe and that may mean talking to the other parents beforehand to make you feel more comfortable.
Summer holidays are the perfect time for letting children be children, but for parents this can sometimes cause increased worries and work-arounds. Setting clear expectations and boundaries will help you both enjoy it.