Our latest article has been published in the Chiswick Herald, please click here or read it below.
How to make the School Holidays the best ever!
The school holidays are a wonderful opportunity for families to strengthen and improve their relationships and yet for many parents they can bring stress and anxiety. For some parents it can be more about surviving than enjoying the school holidays.
The first thing to remember is that as parents you are in charge and so before anything else take some time to think about how best to manage what can be a massive undertaking in terms of balancing time, logistics, money, competing demands and complex relationships.
Principle one - Look after yourself before looking after others
Priority number one is the well being of the person in charge and yes that is you. So it is really important that you know what you can manage and that you apply your knowledge about what will work best. After all it is you who will have to manage whatever plans are made. Here are a list of questions to help you think about this:-
How are you?
How’s life for you at the moment?
What is concerning you at the moment?
How do you feel about family life?
What would you like to get out of the summer holidays?
Why do you think you want this - is this what you want or need?
Now take a moment to now think what you NEED from the holidays?
What do you not want to happen?
Thinking through how the family is at the moment what do you foresee?
In terms of current challenges what have you tried and what haven’t you tried?
Do you feel supported? Again, if not what have you tried and not tried?
How self critical are you? Yes difficult behaviours in the family may well be coming from the dynamic created by traits that you see as your own shortcomings but be kind to yourself. Don’t make yourself do things because you feel you should - find creative ways to achieve the same aims!
Principle two - Use a constructive and collaborative communication style
Avoid escalation of conflict by simplifying your communication. When you feel that conflict may arise use this four step way of ensuring you express yourself clearly and in a non confrontational way.
- State the fact/s
- Say what your response say how you feel and think (never say you make me feel / think because that will escalate conflict)
- Explain why this matters to you
- Share the problem you now have and ask them for their input
For example one of your children arrives late, this means you will be under pressure to get somewhere on time, this is something that you have said is important to you, you feel angry and stressed. It also means that it is unlikely you can fit in both of the things that were planned.
- I said we would need to leave at 9am but you have arrived at 9.45am
- I feel upset, angry and under pressure
- I want to be a good parent and being late means to me that I am failing but being late also means I end up under pressure
- Now that we are 45 minutes I do not think we can do what we had planned, I need help in deciding what to change. Do you have any thoughts?
Principle three - Maintaining boundaries
A constructive and collaborative style of communication does not mean that you now let others decide what happens. Particularly if you are clearly the one with the designated responsibility. The key concern now is finding a new plan that works for everyone - including you. With the example above you may decide to take out one of the activities that had been planned. Before you do this double check with your motivations to ensure that this is the most practical solution - that the decision is not an outlet for your difficult feelings but an answer to the dilemma you face. The message you want your children to have is that when things go badly in life it is important to take the course of action that best puts things back on track. And if you think some form of punishment is also necessary then that is a different issue and should be handled as such.
So you have said your piece and have invited help but it is now your decision to decide what should happen next. Clarity about who is in charge is ultimately about safety. If any of the children do not like your decision remind them of the fact that you are responsible and that in life it is important that people take their responsibilities seriously. And of course remind them that one day they will be in the position of responsibility and then they will need to be the one making the decision.