Are you a stressed-out parent dreading the upcoming school holidays? Trying to keep the kids entertained and busy while managing your stress levels is a lot to juggle. School holidays can be a time of chaos and disruption, but they don’t have to be. With a few of these practical tips, you can not only survive the school holidays, but also thrive during this time.
It’s vital that parents prepare themselves to manage their stress during school holidays because it can be a very challenging and overwhelming time. With kids being out of school, parents need to balance their work and household responsibilities while ensuring their children are safe, entertained, and happy. This can be a mammoth task, and if parents aren’t prepared to manage their stress, it can lead to burnout, irritability, and even affect their mental health. By taking steps to prepare themselves, parents can enjoy the school holidays while managing their stress levels – creating a positive and healthy environment for the entire family.
Hear from The Banyans Chief Psychologist, Peter Hayton, for eight practical tips to help you manage stress during the Easter School Holidays
1. Identify your triggers
Begin by identifying events or situations that tend to trigger those negative feelings and then develop alternative ways of thinking about the situation that can replace the negative feelings. This exercise will help you anticipate and develop coping strategies to manage your triggers.
Practice visualising your triggers, and practice your coping strategies. This way, you can replace the element of surprise with the expectation that you know how to handle the situation. By identifying your triggers and preparing beforehand, you’ll be better equipped to manage stress and anxiety during the school holidays.
2. Validate your feelings
Are you tired of struggling with difficult emotions, only to feel more overwhelmed when they inevitably resurface? The secret to managing these feelings isn’t to push them away but to embrace them with compassion and understanding. When you start to feel an intense emotion, begin by acknowledging it and recognising that it’s a natural human response. Then, permit yourself to feel the emotion fully, without judgment or resistance. By creating space for your feelings in this way, you’ll find that they become less daunting and easier to manage.
3. Make time for you
Taking care of yourself during the school holidays is just as important as taking care of your family. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the school holidays, but neglecting your needs can quickly lead to burnout. Take a few moments to reflect on your needs during this time. Whether taking a dance class or taking a few deep breaths, make a list of things that would help you feel refreshed and re-energised. Then, schedule those activities in your calendar in advance.
During the school term, many parents tend to prioritise school activities like homework over recreational activities (like the kids watching two movies in a row or allowing our teens to binge a Netflix series). In addition, giving our kids their own downtime for recreation, and making this a permissible priority in the holidays, gives parents more rest, and kids can learn to regulate their own activity.
4. Plan Activities
Planning activities in advance can be a great way to prevent boredom and keep your kids entertained during the school holidays. It’s great to involve your children in the planning process – so that they feel invested and excited about the activities you have planned.
Sit down with your children and list family activities you can do together – anything from visiting a local museum or baking together at home. The key is to focus on activities that will help you spend quality time together rather than those that are expensive or flashy.
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5. Talk about plans in advance
When we talk about plans with our children in advance, we are helping them imagine situations and build necessary coping skills in advance. By discussing potential challenges or situations with our children beforehand, we empower them to prepare themselves and feel more confident in their ability to handle whatever comes their way. This is a valuable tool for children, especially during the school holidays when there may be new and unfamiliar situations.
So, take some time to sit down with your children and talk about your plans for the upcoming holidays. Discuss potential challenges, as well as exciting opportunities, and help your children imagine themselves in those situations.
6. Set boundaries with family in advance
Setting boundaries is an integral part of communication that helps us define ourselves and our needs. As the school holidays approach, consider the boundaries we may need to set with extended family. This can include setting visiting hours, discussing dinner table rules, and outlining other expectations important to your family. When establishing boundaries, clear communication and prior discussion with family members is crucial. While they may not always agree, it’s important that they respect and cooperate with your boundaries to promote a healthy environment.
7. Plan 10 minutes of one-on-one connected time with your kids
As a busy parent, making time for meaningful connection with your children can be tricky. To overcome this challenge, set aside just 10 minutes every day to connect with each of your kids without any screens around. During this time, focus on being fully present with your child, whether by reading together, chatting, or cuddling on the couch. This simple practice strengthens your bond with your child and promotes a sense of calm and connection in your home, reducing stress for everyone.
8. Manage expectations & practice gratitude
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a perfect holiday, but it’s important to remember that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s perfectly okay. Embrace imperfections and focus on making meaningful memories with your kids. One way to shift the focus to “what’s going right” is by practising gratitude. Take a few moments each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for, whether it’s your health, family, or home. And why not turn this into a family tradition by going around the dinner table and having each family member share one thing they’re grateful for that day?
The school holidays can be challenging for parents, but with the right strategies and support, you can enjoy yourself too.
Need more support?
You may be thinking, “all of this sounds great, but I need more hands-on support to manage my stress levels”. That’s where The Banyans Residential and Day Programs for mental health come in.
Offering flexible Day Programs for Mental Health, Stress and Anxiety, guests attend just one day per week. Designed for busy parents leading full schedules, our Day Programs allow you to prioritise your mental health while balancing the demands of life. Alternatively, The Banyans Residential Programs provide live-in treatment, allowing you to take time out from everyday life to focus intensely on your mental health concerns.
Our Programs will see you supported by an industry-leading multidisciplinary team of Psychologists, Psychiatrists, GPs, Nutritionists, Yoga Therapists, Exercise Physiologists and more – harnessing you with the tools and support you need to navigate high periods of stress and anxiety in your life, with ease.
Don’t let stress tip you over the edge these school holidays. Instead, invest in yourself with The Banyans. Your future self will be grateful you did.
Call our expert team 24/7 on 1300 226 926 for a confidential discussion or make an enquiry below.
This article was reviewed by Peter Hayton, Clinical Director & Senior Psychologist at The Banyans Healthcare Group.