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We look at how parents can support their children during the summer holidays and some key areas to be mindful of. 

Summer holidays & your child: tips for parents

We often presume families are excited about the end of term. However, six weeks off may be daunting for some of us. Parents and young people often struggle without the structure and support network of school.

Summer holidays also offer the opportunity for more freedom for teenagers. Many teens want more independence and want to attend festivals or concerts without their parents. The summer holidays are tricky to navigate; here are some tips to help keep your child on track so summer can be as rewarding as possible for everyone in the family.

summer holidays
Parents often have to navigate requests for more independence from teenagers.

Routine and diet

While all young people do better with structure, this is particularly true for children with SPLD as they are dependent on the predictability that school provides. Without routine young people are more prone to anxiety, behaviour issues and tantrums.

It is tempting to allow your children to decide their bedtime and what to eat during the holidays, but it is much better to set expectations and stick to them throughout the summer break. For example, you could let them go to bed and wake up slightly later than term time, but be consistent to avoid overtiredness and consequential emotional outbursts. For younger children, be sure to factor in some downtime each day so they can rest and relax away from the sun.

Summer holidays usually involve ice creams and restaurant visits; whilst this is great and something to be enjoyed as a family, we need to find a balance. Incorporate fruits and vegetables and plenty of water into their diet. Avoid fizzy drinks as too much sugar can lead to behaviour and sleep problems. Children can also be very picky and might not like the food the hotel has on offer, so stock up on non-perishable, nutritious snacks such as nuts to supplement
the meal times.

Children respond well to consistent responses in terms of praise and discipline. The summer holidays can be very testing for parents, but it is helpful to agree on rules as a family and outline the consequences for not adhering to them. Be consistent; implement the rules and reward good behaviour whenever possible. We must also recognise each child’s individual needs to set realistic expectations.

When older children want more freedom and independence, discuss with them what you think reasonable rules are. For example, suggest that they have to be home by 10 pm or you will pick them up from an event or party. If they want to stay over at a friend’s house and you do not know the friend very well, ask to speak to their parents or invite the friend to your house first. Make your home a safe and easy place to socialise. Make sure you give your children privacy so they feel comfortable being there with their friends. Do not interfere too much, but be consistent with your expectations. If children socialise at your home, you will have an insight into what they are doing.

Unfortunately, there are risks as children get older. Parents should talk to young people about healthy relationships, alcohol and drugs. Talk to Frank and Let’s Talk About It have resources to help parents navigate these potentially awkward conversations.

child on bed with laptop
Some structure and routine is still needed in holidays; this is best discussed with the family in the beginning.

Encourage your child to practice self-care

Self-care is all about what we can do to keep ourselves feeling good. It helps us to look after our mental health and wellbeing. Four key areas linked to self-care are listed below with examples of activities you can encourage your children to try. More support and guidance are available on Anna Freud Website.

Physical well-being

Even if we are not very busy, we are not necessarily relaxed. Summer holidays are a time to recharge; ensure to build some relaxation techniques into your family’s weekly or daily routine. It can be as simple as focusing on breathing. For example, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. Try this for three to five minutes in a quiet place.

We must have time away from technology; we all feel pressured to be constantly connected and this pressure can cause unrecognised stress. Encourage your child to turn their phone off for an hour each day and make sure they switch it off before bed to avoid disrupting sleep.

Exercise releases endorphins which help us to feel good. We should all aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, ideally 60mins. This can be a brisk walk, a game of football, a run or a workout. Your child will feel so much better afterwards and it will boost their self-esteem too.

children on walk in woods
Time away from screens is recommended as well as to move the body.

Emotional well-being

It is important to encourage supportive friendships. The summer holidays are a good time to foster friendships outside of school or to spend more time with cousins and other family members. Do not allow your child to feel pressured to be in constant contact with their school friends all summer. Encourage your child to take a break. They will feel refreshed and be excited to see their friends at the start of term.

Try gratitude exercises; this is where you write down three things you are grateful for each day. You could even do these as a family with younger children.

Be creative

Organise creative activities or encourage older children to do this independently. This could be creative writing, painting, photography, or cooking. These are all great forms of self-care and your child might develop a new hobby or skill over the summer.

Practical tips

You may have to work during the holidays and older children do not need constant supervision. They must organise their time if you cannot. Discuss with them each evening what they plan to do the next day and encourage activities and positive relationships as outlined above.

For all children, the summer holidays are a good time for reflection and a time to set goals for the future. What do they want to do differently next term? What clubs do they want to join? Is there any work they can do over the summer to help revise topics they found tricky? Use the end-of-year school report as a basis for this discussion and revisit it after a few weeks.

Even with the best-laid plans, you may see regression and worsening behaviour during the summer holidays. It will not always go smoothly, but be kind to yourself as parents and understanding of your children.

Child motivational speech
Holiday planning can optimise your holidays, but don't worry if things don't always work out.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.

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