With many children already on holidays and many others about to start, parents are facing the challenge of how to deal with having them at home while you still need to work. This can be a tricky and stressful moment, especially if you cannot rely on your extended family, summer camps, or friends to lend you a hand.
Here are some ideas that you may find helpful:
- Set up expectations and limits
Setting up expectations is helpful so that everyone is clear on how things are going to work. Have a family meeting to decide the rules. Discuss expectations (e.g., organise your room, load the dishwasher, going out rules…). Decide the structure of the days so that the children know what to expect. Explain to your children the hours that you need to work each day or the specific times. For example, “I need to be at my desk and not disturbed between 9-12. Once I am done, we can go to the park”. Doing this everyday helps your children to manage their expectations and gives them stability.
You also may want to set up rules about when it is OK for your child to disturb you while you are at work (e.g., “You can only come into my study or wherever you are working if someone rings the bell, or if you have hurt yourself”). Avoid telling them to come in when there is an emergency, because you and them may have different ideas of what an emergency is! Clearly define what counts as an emergency.
Setting up expectations will help your children to be less upset if you are not with them, and you are less likely to get frustrated if they are not respecting your needs. Sometimes parents end up being ‘entertainers’ because we think that we need to fill every moment of our child’s life with ‘valuable’ experiences. We end up constantly organising plans for them. Remember that there is also value in children getting bored because that way, for example, they are more likely to develop their creativity. Similarly, it is good for children to be able to decide what they want to play with and how they want that play to look like. We all need to learn to be with alone with ourselves and this is not something children will learn if we are organising every single moment for them.
And remember, do not feel guilty if you are working over the summer holidays. You are doing what you have to do and the best you can!
2. Adapt your schedule to your child’s needs and routine (if at all possible)
If you can work flexibly, try to adapt your work to suit your child. For example, if your teenager sleeps until midday, use that time to work and when they wake up you can have lunch together. Or if you have a baby that naps in the morning and afternoon, use that time to get on with work.
3. Have a space only for you (if at all possible)
Working while the kids are at home may be tricky but working in the same room as the kids is definitely not easy! If possible, have a space in the house that is only yours while you are working and make it clear to the children that they cannot come in unless there is a real emergency. If possible, avoid working in the kitchen because someone is always likely to come in to get some water or a snack.
If you have to work with the kids in the room, encourage them to do activities that are not too loud, like reading, making a puzzle, building with Legos… Another option is for you to wear ear plugs!
4. Loosen up the rules
The holidays are a good moment to loosen up a bit. We are not saying to go totally crazy because children still need rules, consistency, and a routine (especially the little ones) but we can perhaps relax them a little. You may, for example, allow some extra screen time, let your teenager sleep in a bit longer, or let your 10-year-old go to bed 30 minutes later than usual. However, remember to make it clear that rule-relaxation only applies during the school holidays. Otherwise, your troops may rebel come school-time!
If you do relax the rules, start to go back to ‘normal’ a few days before school starts again so that your child has time to adjust.
5. Find your village
They say that ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child because it is true! If you have friends or family around with children, offer to organise a rota: you take their kids some afternoons or mornings and they do the same for you. Or if their children are doing the same activities as yours, organise a rota for drop-offs and pick-ups. Ask other parents how they organise themselves, they may give you useful tips and ideas.
Decide what your priorities are for the summer regarding work and family life. You probably will not have time to do everything, so planning ahead and deciding what needs to be done and what can wait will help you avoid frustrations and disappointment. Try to be realistic with your time. I don’t know about you, but I am way too optimistic with mine!
Plan ahead and be flexible. If things are not working out as you had planned, be creative and work out other solutions or strategies.
7. And above all…Enjoy your child!
The holidays are a time when we don’t have to follow a strict timetable and children have less obligations. Therefore, we are less likely to argue with our children about homework, sleep time or music practice. Use this time to chat with them, have a laugh, do things together that you both enjoy.
Sometimes, as parents we fall in the trap of thinking that we need to be always doing something valuable with our children. While this is great, remember that there is also value in ‘not doing anything’. Spending a lazy morning in bed, watching a movie in the afternoon, or playing videogames together, are all valuable moments. During these moments, you enjoy each other’s company and strengthen your bond. Now, that is valuable!
However your summer is looking, we hope that you have a great time and you and your family have time to recharge and enjoy yourselves.
Photo credit: Nappy on Unsplash