Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Home for the holidays: getting the most out of your time during the summer break

Everyone loves the summer – long days, light nights, school holidays and the prospect of a week or two off work to spend with the family.

The reality, however, doesn’t always live up to our high expectations. Many find that spending extended periods of time with other people can be stressful – no matter how much we love them!

People want to be together and feel connected during the holidays, so much so that we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and others, to have a ‘perfect’ time. We are conditioned to feel that we should make the absolute most of our time off and feel obliged to spend 24/7 with our nearest and dearest during the holidays, which, not unsurprisingly, can lead to tensions and upset.

Balance and moderation are key to ensuring a successful summer break. If you’ve found yourself doing any of the following during previous holidays, chances are you are in danger of over-extending yourself – and that can lead to disappointment and disenchantment.

During the holidays, do you find yourself:

  • Agreeing to attend family gatherings out of obligation, rather than desire?
  • Buying gifts and treats for yourself, or children, that you can’t really afford?
  • Preparing elaborate meals or celebrations for friends and relatives?

If you do, here's how you can put some balance back into your summer holidays.

1. Set aside time for yourself, and encourage other members of your family to do the same

Spending all day and evening with your family can upset the equilibrium of family life. We all like routine and can often feel off kilter due to the change in our daily habits. A quick an easy way to reset the balance, is to build in some ‘me time’ for you and the other members of your family. Even a short period of time – fifteen minutes to half an hour – is enough to centre yourself and enjoy the rest of the day. Take a bath, read the paper, listen to your music – it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it makes you feel good.

2.    Ensure everyone is given a ‘voice’ during the summer

Past surveys have suggested that parents find the pressure of keeping children entertained all day, every day very stressful – chances are it’ll be the same this year too. Parents often feel they spend the entire holiday on making their kids happy, keeping them entertained at all times and breaking up arguments. Aim to make a positive change this summer by giving everyone an opportunity to do what they want to do – not just the little ones. Why not encourage everyone to write down the things they’d like to do over the holidays, fold them up and then pick one out of a hat, anonymously, as and when you need them.

3.   Set a budget and stick to it

It can be tempting to try and keep up with the Jones over the holidays; to spend money we haven’t got, on things we don’t really need. Remember though, memories are built around people, not possessions – so make a promise to yourself to spend time, not money this holiday. Work up a budget you can afford and then stick to it. Deal in cash, not credit card, which makes you less likely to overspend and consider giving the kids their own daily allowance for holiday sundries, such as ice lollies, etc. Not only does this teach them about budgeting, it makes it fun for them too – and means you won’t have to keep saying ‘no’ to them.

4. Go back to basics

You may be surprised to hear that when asked what they are looking forward to about the summer holidays, the majority of children who are asked say they are looking forward to spending more time with their family and playing outdoors. Use the holidays as a time to reconnect with your nearest and dearest doing simple things, like walking in the woods, going to the park, tidying the garden or washing the car! Not only will your kids thank you for it, your purse will reap the benefits too. Plan ahead and do your research to find out all the local free activities in your area that you can take advantage on.

5.    Do what works for you and your family

Only you and your family know what works for you. Don’t worry about how things should be or what you should do, but do what you can do and more importantly what you want to do. Spend time doing things that are important to each of your family members – and involve them in the preparation. Compromise, negotiate and cooperate with each other to plan a summer break that is perfect for your family – not for others.

Above all else, try not to place unrealistic expectations on yourself or other family members this holiday. Remember, not one of us is perfect but if we accept our friends and family as they are, and embrace our differences even, we can achieve a stress-free summer.

Happy holidays!

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