10 Ways to Stay Sane During the Holidays
If you’re a stay-at-home mum or dad with young children of different ages or even a teen or two, you either relish the holidays or dread the likely squabbles and mess that will occur when small, active people are confined to the same living area for extended periods of time.
We cannot guarantee you a stress-free holiday period, but with our tips below, you may just get to keep your voice and most of your hair while the kids are NOT in school. Hang in there!
1. Get them out of the house
Well, we do not mean to literally kick them out, but do find suitable activities – workshops, camps, courses that your kids can participate in, especially older children. That said, school children also need some routine and genuine ‘rest’ after terms of hard work – so avoid sending them to camps back to back if possible– as a general guide, 2-3 days of daily activity (e.g. half-day camp) should be followed by at least 1-2 days’ break. With a bit of devious, careful planning, you can arrange it such that at any one time, one child will NOT be at home. This will also give them plenty to talk about and share with their parents and siblings when they meet up again. For activity ideas, check out our calendar here.
2. Set specific expectations for each child
If you have several children under ten, now is a good time to re-affirm the dos and don’ts, with perhaps some carrots thrown in (rather than sticks) to encourage good behaviour. If your kids have a tendency to squabble, dangle treats for good behaviour e.g. a trip to the park or some ice cream if they can go a day without fighting. Let the baby of the family know she cannot always get her own way, and be quick to praise your eldest when he is quick to clear the table or keep his brother’s toys.
3. Keep to some basic routines
Children need routine in order to feel secure, and to give them a sense of control and balance in their lives. Many schoolchildren are allowed to wake up late or stay up for as long as they want, but this can result in under-rested or hyperactive children with medical and behavioural problems. Perhaps they can wake up a bit later than on a typical school day, but make sure they know when they are supposed to be up, bathed and ready for breakfast – perhaps even to help you make breakfast for a change.
4. Turn your home into a ‘community centre’
A community centre offers different activities to suit all kinds of interests – you may need to do the same at home! Figure out what are the things each child likes to do and be stocked up – whether we are talking about books, a new computer game, DVD movies or a science experiment kit. However, the holidays are also the time when siblings, who may seldom see each other, get to bond and rediscover one another. So find activities which they can do together, such as putting together a modelling kit, teaming up in a WII game, doing a jigsaw, or helping you with household duties. And that brings us to…
5. Get the kids to help with housework (or at least not ADD to housework)
You need not have a ‘planting rice’ posture the whole day long if you reinforce some house rules (see no 2) and get them more involved in maintaining the tidiness their own stuff, especially if your kids are older. Your teenager wants to hang out at the mall with friends – again? Get him or her to vacuum the house first or chop the veggies – after all, you practically let him off all duties when he was mugging for exams.
6. Plan the week’s errands in advance
If you are the primary caregiver who is used to having some ‘free’ time while the kids are in school, you will have to manage your time more carefully. Plan your day and destinations such that you can combine a few activities in one outing e.g. bringing the kids out for a leisurely breakfast followed by grocery shopping, or letting them play or do art & crafts while you shop at a mall. IKEA, with its popular kid’s play centre, and family-oriented malls with lots of children’s activities are a favourite with many parents.
7. Share holiday parenting duties
If the caregiving is mostly entrusted to one parent (YOU) while the other works full-time, some adjustment is in order so you do not suffer burnout. Ask your partner to try to get home a bit earlier, spend more time with the children at night, or have dinner out more often.
8. Do something different each week
The six-week break is the longest that schoolchildren will have within the year. Not every family will be fortunate enough to go for that long vacation to Europe or Australia, but if your idea of breaking routine is to head to a different mall each weekend (although that seems to be the top favourite in Singapore Cool), how about trying something a little different each week? Give your children something different to look forward to each weekend, whether it is a hip-hop workshop, a kite flying festival, a seafood dinner trip to Johor Bahru or a day of fun at Sentosa. For young children, this will also offer them great material for their journals, because one of the first things teachers will assign in January is an entry on ‘What I did during my holidays’ (seriously!).
9. Make time for… learning
For some parents, the year-end holidays are the time to get a head start on the next year’s schoolwork by reading through textbooks and tackling assessment papers. Nothing wrong with that – but if you find your child absent-mindedly rising early in the morning and putting on his school uniform, you are either overdoing it or your child is hoping that term will start early! There are ways to keep your child’s mind buzzing or to help in recalling the lessons that your child has learnt, without opening a textbook. Plan outings to venues such as the Science Centre, museum or the zoo, do some science experiments at home or get your child to plan the shopping list for you based on a specific budget.
10. Very important: Give the key caregivers a break
If you are working and your children are being cared for by their grandparents or a relative, do find time to ‘take over’ their duties so they too can take a break to do their daily errands, go on a short holiday etc. For many elderly folk, taking care of your children for half a day may already be sufficiently challenging, let alone having to handle your kids for a full day. Take some leave to free up their time, offer to bring them out together with your kids for a nice meal over the weekend (if they STILL do not mind seeing them yet again).