Tips for a stress free summer
Whilst many of us parents are on some level delighted that our children are on their summer break, the reality is that for those of us that have to work part time or full time it can be an incredible juggle. When the weather is nice it can be hard enough to sit in the office but it can feel doubly restrictive when the children are away from school! Many who are parents feel constantly guilty at balancing the requirement of their career and need to generate an income with the responsibility of parenthood.
Those of us who are now in our 40s may remember a time when in our childhood our mother was always at home and when we spent our summer holidays having fun in our home environment. The reality for many of us now is that our children are often off to holiday clubs, friends or relations and our quality time with our children then becomes even more important. A good thing to remember here is that your children have not experienced the childhood that you had, (if you were lucky), so try not to feel guilty at what you perceive you're not giving them. Focus your mind on what you are able to provide and remember that you are the one comparing against your own up-bringing, not them!
The most important thing is to try and focus on the positives that this summer holiday offers you and your children. Remember that with the variety of different childcare cover, they may be experiencing a great deal more fun than you did, which can be exceptionally enriching . Obviously for many, the reality of the summer holidays and the extra childcare provision can have a huge cost impact, so we need to work on keeping those stress levels down and the positive focus really entrenched, otherwise, when you do spend time with your family, increased stress levels may sour the time that you do get to be together.
If this sounds all too familiar read our “Summer Holiday Action Plan” below which will hopefully help you get the most out of the next few weeks.
Stress Free Summer Holiday Action Plan
- Create a plan with dates and times of what is happening throughout the next few weeks so that your children can see where they're going and when. This can prevent last minute issues and the older children might even be more prepared and get themselves ready to go! This will also help you, if the younger children just want to stay at home, as you can point out that in x number of days, you're going to have some special time together.
- Remember that many children , especially if they're away from home in holiday clubs and at friends or relations houses, may just enjoy having a short 'staycation' and having quality time with you at home may be a really important and enjoyable way of spending time together. Many parents who feel guilty that they're not spending the whole summer holidays with their children, will then book up lots of trips or days out when they do have time off, which can mean the children never get any 'down time'. Just being at home, playing with their own toys, and spending time with you enjoying simple pleasures like reading together, painting or time playing in the garden can be really important and a restful time for you all. Try not to feel that the only way of having good quality time with your children is being 'out and about', because for some children it's the very opposite of what they may need and want. Life during term time is so busy and frenetic for most of us with regimented time frames, so being relaxed and not having deadlines, order or structure can be immensely therapeutic.
- If you feel stress levels are beginning to build up, take proactive action. Draw on your 'natural first aid kit' and get those essential oils and Bach Flower Flower remedies out! A great way to relax at the end of a long day is to luxuriate in a wonderful aromatic bath with some soothing and mood-enhancing essential oils. Try 15ml Moisturising Bath Milk, 2 drops of Neroli, 6 of Lavender and 4 Sweet Orange. Add to the bath once you have run the water.
- If you recognise that your children are tired after the long summer term, why not teach them some basic massage techniques and get them to massage each other! Make up a nice gentle blend e.g. 30ml Grapeseed oil, 6 drops Lavender, 2 drops Roman Chamomile and 4 drops Mandarin (this blend is ideal from age 6 upwards). Give your child a gentle shoulder massage by using your palms and (warming up the oil first) gently moving them up either side of the spine and gently kneading the trapezius muscles at the top of the shoulders, even just gently massaging the oil into the hands and feet can create a lovely relaxing sensation. Then allow your child to copy your techniques on you or their siblings and you might just be surprised how nice it can feel. More than anything else its special time you can enjoy together, and it can be particularly enjoyable after a bath at the end of the day before bed, helping you both to wind down and relax.
- Why not do a little gardening during your summer holidays. Even if you have a tiny garden or just pots and window boxes you can spend timing buying up cheaper plants that are in the sale at this time of year. Create a little herb garden from which you can show the children how to harvest the herbs and use them in cooking. You can also put together easily and cheaply, a bee and butterfly friendly area where you can plant flowers such as lavenders, buddlia, cornflowers, foxglove, marjoram and poppies. Remember if you have lawned areas in your garden this is a very important time for bees and other wild pollinators to gather pollen and nectar before the colder months and hibernation. The queens need to be well fattened to survive the winter months. So consider leaving the whole lawn un-mown for a while and just mowing a path through which is also lovely for the children. Perhaps next spring you might even like to plant wild-flower seeds, you can look up the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for suggestions on planting the right types of plants and flowers to ensure food provision from spring through to summer and autumn.
- Growing food in the garden also gives you a wonderful opportunity to use the produce you have harvested to do some cooking with your children in the evenings or at weekends. If you don't have a garden in which you can grow food (although even in the smallest garden you can grow a surprising amount – look up websites that deal with vertical gardening) even if you just grow herbs, tomatoes and onions you can then teach your children how to make home made pizzas! Try to cook savoury as well as sweet things with your children, as many children grow up only having learnt how to cook biscuits and cakes, and we all know that our diet tends to need the inclusion of more fresh fruit and vegetables!
- When stress levels are high, try and have a period every evening where you have an hour to wind down without the stimulation of TV, mobiles and computers. We know that this type of technology bombards our senses and stimulates the brain in a way that can make it difficult to wind down and relax. Having a quiet time in your household on a regular basis can help you create quality family time once again, from which all of you can derive huge benefit.
- Whatever is going on and however many different directions all of your family is going in each day, try and get together around the dinner table every evening, if at all possible. Switch off the TV and the mobiles, and compare notes, share your day! Although achieving this can be quite a challenge these days it can create really special time for a family to share and be together. Perhaps you can also go back to creating that traditional Sunday lunch time when a special meal is created for all to share (a family BBQ if the weather allows is ideal!). Ring fencing family time, without technology that can be both useful and rather destructive, has become, I believe even more important than it ever was.
- Do you spend much of your time feeling guilty? If you spend your Summer holidays feeling 'stretched' and finding it difficult to do everything, be gentle with yourself. Try and develop the capacity to overlay any tendency towards having negative internal dialogue and remember to focus on what you are achieving and managing to cover. It is very easy in this modern age for us to feel like we are constantly 'running' and never quite able to keep up with everything. If you are constantly giving yourself a hard time it will be both draining and leave you less able to enjoy the good quality time that is available with your children. The average woman in particular is covering the running of the home, the majority of cooking and cleaning and organising of childcare, as well as engaging in a full time or part time job. It is a real achievement to juggle this number of responsibilities let alone cover the relationships in your family as well! So give yourself a regular pat on the back and remind yourself how well you are doing! It is likely that you are managing far more than you are aware of, or acknowledge to yourself.
- Is there anyway during the summer holidays that you can take some of the pressure off yourself? If you are able perhaps you could organise for this particularly demanding period, a little extra help. Even if you don't normally have a cleaner, or help in the garden, or buy ready made meals, perhaps during the summer holidays you could set up a little more assistance so that you don't have to do so much. Often it is possible to swap skills, or help each other out in a way that can help balance things a little more easily without necessarily engaging in extra financial pressure. For instance, perhaps you could offer to have a friends children for an evening if she could pick up your shopping when she gets hers or walk your dogs when she walks hers etc.
- If you don’t normally have your groceries delivered from the supermarket perhaps this would be a good time to get it done, evening if it's just while the summer holidays are with us. Remember the first order you make often gets the special offer of £15-20 off your first shop (look out for leaflets in the press, with your Amazon orders or when you're next in store).
- A great way to make your weekly shop both enjoyable, better value and educational all in one can be to visit your local farm shop. At this time of year there is often a glut of certain types of fresh produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes and soft fruits. So these types of fresh produce can even be more reasonable than they are in the supermarket and will definitely be fresher and therefore more nutritious. You will also be keeping the money you spend within your immediate locality, helping fund the rural economy and keeping your shop relatively carbon neutral. Many farm shops have livestock for the children to visit and cafes for that wholesome treat too, so it can be a really enjoyable trip out.
- Try and include in some of the things that you do with your children the things that you enjoy as well! If your children can see you enjoying yourself they are often likely to enjoy themselves too. A trip to the beauty salon might not count though!!
- Remember if finances are under pressure during the summer holidays, making up a picnic and going for trips locally can really help keeping the costs of day trips down. There are often many areas where you can spend the day free of charge, even in this day and age. Local parks, ruins, beaches and some National Trust facilities and nature reserves can still represent a free or low cost day out if you pick and chose and do a little research. If you join organisations such as the National Trust or the RSPB, many of these trips will be free all year round and will make the membership fee really good value.
- Remember to create the ambience that you wish to establish in your home by vaporising essential oils when you get back from work. This will help create a positive and relaxing environment for all of you and help lift your mood if you’ve had a long day but still have lots to do! Try 6 drops Bergamot, 2 drops Rose and 4 drops Rosemary to de-stress and energise. Remember to vaporise essential oils when you hoover and do the housework as it makes it feel less stressful, and naturally creates a wonderful scent throughout your home without the toxic chemicals that synthetic air fresheners give off.
- If you are getting very hot and bothered during this wonderful seasonal weather, try making up these aromatherapy spritzers, one for the face and one for the feet! Take 150ml Orange Flower Hydrolat. For your face, add 2 drops Rose, 2 drops Neroli, 6 drops Geranium and 1 drop Peppermint, shake well before use and close eyes when spraying. For the feet, and add 10 drops Tea Tree, 2 drops Peppermint, 6 drops Spearmint and 10 drops Lavender. Take your shoes off when at work and spray on your feet under your desk and this will also spread a wonderful scent throughout your office!
- If you are making up packed lunches for your children before they go off to their holiday clubs or friends, you can help make the summer holidays more special by adding in little surprises. This will show them that you are thinking of them and help you feel more positive about the situation. You can add little messages, the occasional little surprise present, or the odd snacky treat that they're not expecting or that you wouldn’t normally include. This will give them a smile in the middle of their day and it will give you a good feeling too.
- If you and your children are all rather tired and hot and bothered at the end of a busy day try a lovely aromatherapy foot bath before you go to bed which can be especially useful in this hot weather. Take a couple of buckets or washing up bowls, add cold water, 1 cup Dead Sea Salt and get the children to stir it all up with wooden spoons. Then add 2 drops Roman Chamomile, 6 drops Spearmint and 6 drops Lavender. Sit in front of the TV or out in the garden, pop your feet in and enjoy how the cool comfortable feeling spreads up your body. You can also add ice cubes if you are really overheated and don't mind the cold!
- If you have been out in the heat and some of you have heat rash or a little sunburn, try this lovely cooling aftersun gel. Suitable for everyone over the age of 2. Take 100ml of Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel and add 2 drops German Chamomile, 4 drops Spearmint, 2 drops Carrot Seed Oil and 15 drops Lavender. In addition, to make the mix richer and more nourishing, you can also add 5ml Argan Oil. Mix well and apply. Remember to do a skin patch test for anyone with sensitive skin or with young children. This mixture also feels really lovely when massaged into hot feet! If you don't want to make your own you could try our new Cooling Gel with icy-cold Cornmint and soothing Lavender!
- A final small suggestion for frazzled parents! If it is possible, keep one or two days holiday allowance just for you. Many of us are completely exhausted following the summer holiday juggle. Book yourself up a day or two for recuperation of lost energies, for when the children go back to school, to give you something to look forward to. This is about honouring your own needs. It can help give you a little extra energy and boost your mood if the going gets a little tough when demands on you are higher than normal.
Well I hope that helps a little, and that you and your family do manage to enjoy an absolutely fantastic summer!