School holidays can be a happy time, but can bring their own pressures on individuals and families. Parents may feel stressed as they try to balance time between work and home, maintain a family routine, and manage additional financial strain. Children may find, changes to routine cause them to feel stressed, isolated, and in need of support. This is particularly true for children with added challenges such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Knight, Petrie, Zuurmond, & Potts, 2009). At the Bower Place Complex Needs Clinic, our work with families has identified some simple steps that reduce family stress during the holiday period:
Encourage connection: We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage challenges and for young people, social relationships are essential to wellbeing. While it’s okay to take time out for themselves, encourage children to keep in contact with friends over the school holidays.
Balance structure and freedom: Children need boundaries that are consistently followed and balanced with age appropriate freedom. Maintain a structure that includes a bedtime/curfew and wake-time, but don’t be too rigid.
Encourage independence: The school holidays are a perfect time to create opportunities for older children to have extra responsibilities such as helping with shopping, cooking or preparing for visitors and celebrations. Involve children in decisions and give them responsibilities to carry these out. For example they may be entrusted to decide what to eat for dinner and have a role in preparation.
Manage technology: Too much screen time undermines recharging or health promotion that should come with a break. Limit children’s screen time to 90 minutes in the morning, and then have a different plan for the day. It’s worth noting that the police often report an increase in cyber-bulling during school holidays, so start a conversation about this and be aware of your children’s on-line activities.
Pre-empt issues: If children are worried about returning to school and a new class, talk about this and devise an action plan. Do some orientation activities, visit the school grounds, or look up some information online together.
Recognise concerning behaviour: Holidays are a good time to tune into a child’s emotions, pay attention to unusual behaviour, and try to open up communication. If you notice that your child or young person appears to be more irritable, angry, stressed or worried than usual, is withdrawing from you and others, develops unusual sleeping habits, or expresses a lot of negative thoughts, it may be time to get the appropriate support to encourage healthy coping strategies.
If you think your family could benefit from some extra support these school holidays, contact us at Bower Place on 08 8221 6066 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or refer to the information below.
Knight, A., Petrie, P., Zuurmond, M., & Potts, P. (2009). ‘Mingling together’: Promoting the social inclusion of disabled children and young people during the school holidays. Child & Family Social Work, 14(1), 15-24.