It is summer holiday time. It has been a long year, I am sure you deserve a break from the constant change and turmoil. Nevertheless, the uncertainty of getting away and the fear of government guidelines changing in addition to your child getting COVID is likely to remain a concern.
If you are a parent of a child with sensory challenges, those issues can intensify over this time of year. If you are not careful, it can lead to a huge sensory meltdown. Here are some tips to reduce those summer holiday challenges.
Summer holiday Survival Tips:
1. Summer Communication Tips
We have all suffered this year and some have suffered more than ever. Of course the break is much needed, however, keep your expectations “real” this holiday. Apparently divorce rates and enquiries to RELATE increase in September! Relaxation can give way to stress and tension if the relationship has been tested already this year. Therefore, do manage your expectations and don’t pin extremely high hopes on achieving the perfect holiday…there probably is no such thing. Prepare for regressions, fights and more, stay firm and calm, then give your self some compassion. As long as everyone on that holiday is catered for and that there is something for everyone to enjoy, then you are half way there!
It is so easy to blame your partner and relatives for flight delays and COVID travel issues and even your child’s behaviour. We all know that blaming and arguing never help. Take a breath, conscious breathing helps us to develop the ability to take a pause, to prevent saying or doing something we regret later on. Practice conscious breathing when things go well with your partner, the practice will be there for you at times of stress.
3.Indentify your child’s Anxieties
Summer can new activities, and different authority figures like new sitters, parents and family they may not have seen for a long time, all which can be stressful. Firstly, you need to figure out your child’s fears, whether it’s separating from you or going to new sports activities or holiday clubs If you’re having trouble doing this, try asking open-ended questions. Rather than pose a yes-or-no question like “Are you worried about the holiday club” ask “How are you feeling about going to holiday club?” Once you know, you can encourage her to face her fear. The goal is to teach her that feeling anxious is uncomfortable but anxiety will ebb if you push through it.
4.Use a Sensory Calm down/ self soothe rucksack.
If there are items that help to soothe your child when they are overwhelmed then place them into your calm down bag and bring them along just in case. You can choose from the five senses here. In addition other examples include: noise-cancelling headphones, squishy/fidget toy, chewy tube, iPod and headphones with calming music or even a rice pouch that has been infused with essential oils.
Your child will appreciate having their comforting items within reach when they need them most. Children with sensory difficulties often cannot calm themselves on their own. By having these items close by, you’re prepared to help your child cope with whatever this holiday season brings.
5. Get Organized
Six weeks of unstructured holiday time can be problematic and if you work together, you know I like planning and planners. You can use your dairy and just two sheets of paper or alternatively you can download one I made here:
You can divide into two columns, one for free activities and the other column for costs. This is a great topic for a family meeting, you don’t always have to be the one that makes suggestions. Giving children the space to feel they are included and they have a voice for what they may wish for, it also encourages co-operation and teamwork. In addition, it prevents them asking you 10 times a day for something that cannot be arranged and prevent any guilty feelings. Don’t worry if you are on a budget, not all activities need to cost something.
Work out what activities are a priority. It’s good practice for older children to have the budget and practice working out the cost of activities. Remember to allow them to be creative and any suggestion goes.
Examples of questions to ask:
- Are there any places you would like to visit?
- Would you like to learn anything?
- What are your favourite activities you would like to do at home?
- If we had no money left, what would you like to do?
- If you had the choice, who would like to do those activities with?
6. Ensure Separate Summer Special Time for everyone!
At your planning meeting, you could offer time with each child and ask them what they would like to do. This tactic may prevent rivalrous feelings when each child knows they are going to spend some quality time with mum/dad ( whatever the configuration). It’s just as important for you to have some time to yourself too, it’s good for children to learn that parents are individuals and have needs too. This is the year to prioritise time for you. None of us know how the Autumn term will take shape.
7. Create for less!:
Here are my favourite ideas:
Build a scrap junk sculpture and a den
All you need is lots of boxes, tins, plastic bottles, some glue, and wire. you may be scared of the wire but you may be surprised that children can use pliers. Children get so much joy from creating. You could set it up in the garden, do post me your creations and I will put them on my Facebook page, children love to see the appreciation.
Make some Play-Doh
This does not replace clay but is great for younger children where it provides different sensations for touch and older ones too who may make a figure that hardens and then they can paint. Here is my trusted recipe:
4 cups Flour
2 cups Salt
1 cup water
2tbs of oil
Food colouring of your own taste!
Mix the salt and flour. Mix the water. oil and colouring separately. Gradually add the rest of the liquid slowly. It keeps for a long time in an airtight bag.
Have fun with water
Water is so soothing, you can put some bowls in the garden or have a washing up bowl with some fairy liquid. Toddlers will stand for hours, have some bowls where they can pour and wash.
8. Plan and discuss clear Rules and Boundaries
Travelling can be hard especially if you are with friends and relatives. Be clear about your expectations of behaviour. Family Rules should remain, what are yours? Talk to your children prior to leaving or on the first day, It may prevent some meltdowns!
Work out what you are going to tolerate, some children get very anxious away from home and find transitions difficult. Talk this through with them. One family I worked with brought their pop up tent and their daughter knew that if she needed to calm down she had a safe place to retreat too. You could even try one room in a villa.
9. Make travelling fun
We travelled on many long-haul flights. Many Airlines have activity bags for children and films they can watch. I used to buy some cheap pens, little gifts for pound stores and wrap them up. Your children could open one when they are getting a little fractious, especially near the end of the flight. Tell them where they are going and what they are traveling on. Read the books with planes, or cars. Have ideas on how to stop car bickering such as setting up rewards for those who are cooperating and not moaning.
10.Set some screen time expectations
Try to have a discussion around screen time early on in the holiday. Whatever rules you stick to during term time try to echo these. Some parents like to stick to exactly the same screen time limits for consistency whilst others are happy to increase hours as a holiday treat. Whichever route you go down just try to be clear from the outset.
For me it is almost time to take a pause, I hope you do too. For Autumn, look out for my workshops, I will be offering a free sleep webinar in September so do sign up to my newsletter community for a space. During this time, may you also create intentional time and space for whatever it is that you long for. Wishing you a very good summer. With Love Catherine
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