I was asked by Tesco Living on whether it was important to main strict routines during half-term? My answer was, there is no answer to that. Personally, I think it’s nice to relax and have a break from the norm, but not everyone has the option. Many of us have to work during school holidays (I remember those days when my daughter Amy was little and the challenge of finding affordable but quality childcare was a nightmare). But just in case you were wondering whether you need to be strict Mum and Dad or fun Mum and Dad – do what make your family happy; it’s your holiday after all.
Do I need to maintain routines during half-term?
Just when you thought everything had fallen into place half-term comes along and disrupts your perfected weekday routine. You know what old saying, ‘A change is as good as a rest,’ well the same change can be said for this week-long break – there may not be a lot of restorative time but take up the opportunity to have fun and some quality time with your children when you can.
Children thrive on new experiences and it can be a great time to do something new, revisit those long forgotten pre-school favourite activities or just have some relaxing home time baking cakes and watching movies together. Just because they are on holiday doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy helping to make the dinner or preparing and shopping for a day out – it’s how you do it, not what you do that counts.
If the elements are against you it would be good if you’ve got some crafty activities up your sleeve but don’t feel like you have to be Mary Poppins. A little bit of research can pay dividends – there are often free events on at local libraries, theatres and shopping centres that you can sign up to.
Whether the holidays bring snow or sunshine then blow the cobwebs away with a trip to the playground, a kick about or a long walk. Whatever you do, be part of it – you’ll benefit just as much as the children from a break a change of scene. Also more exercise and fresh air they get the more likely they’ll burn off that excess energy and sleep better and earlier.
Little Ones will be up with the Dawn as usual! But older children may like a bit more shut-eye. The scent of a nice breakfast cooking is more likely to get adolescents out of their beds then shouting and nagging. It’s a holiday and you all should have a little time to relax and be a little busy doing nothing. We all benefit from a some down-time after the stimulation of hectic school and work schedules so don’t feel that every hour needs to planned out. You can help influence good behaviour by keeping them topped up with drinks and healthy snacks. The odd treat is fine but sugary foods and drinks like coke or sugar-free squash may make them overactive and grumpy. When you’re out and about a snack bag will save you money, time and the odd tantrum.
Respecting one another’s choices
Five weekdays at home plus two weekends will not doubt disrupt your family’s usual routines but isn’t that what holidays are all about! Whether you’re going to be at home during the day with your family or not, planning ahead and being a little flexible about usual routines is the key for smiles all round.
If you do need to keep to a strict schedule because they may be on holiday but you’ve got to work, talk to them about what’s going to happen. Let them know the reasons why and agree on what you expect from them and what they can look forward to. Give them regular updates in the morning way before it gets to the critical point between being on time and very, very late.
If you are going to at home some of the time or all of the time having a conversation early each evening about what’s in store for the following day is a good opportunity to set expectations and give everyone a say in what’s happening. Having a rhythm rather than a strict routine for the week may help. So they’ll know you’ll be doing activities in the mornings, or every other day and they’ll get the chance to pick at least one thing. You don’t have to give them carte blanche – present them with two choices and let them have a little bit of personal responsibility on the decision-making.
Being positive and looking forward to spending time together is more likely to mean you’ll be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. A few treats are always welcome but it is your love, attention and listening to your child that will make the biggest difference of all. Don’t worry too much amount maintaining the status quo of bedtimes and mealtimes – as long as their needs are meant and you keep them well hydrated, nourished and they get enough rest it doesn’t really matter if things are a little earlier or later than during the school week.
Half-term, the days are long but it’s only a week. It’ll be over before you know it. Enjoy yourselves.
And if you’ve got a parenting questions just #AskSarah.
Sarah Beeson MBE is a health visitor and author with over four deacades of experiences working with thousands of families. Her memoir The New Arrival and parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Baby are published by HarperCollins.