If you are anything like me, you will be dreading 4pm as that’s the start of the school summer holidays!
Don’t get me wrong, I love my three children dearly. Well, my eldest is 21, so not so much a child but you get my gist. I just cannot bear the summer holidays, its far too long and the children just get bored which then makes my life stressful. Add into the mix of having a child with additional needs and that’s a whole different story!
Reuben hates crowds, he hates other children and he hates having no routine, so the long six weeks of no school is very hard for both him and me. Parks are Reubens’s idea of hell and the free activities at the library just fill him with dread, so what do I do to try and make the holidays as stress free as I can?
I have put together 10 things I do to help survive the summer holidays, so that by the end of them you still have your sanity … hopefully!
I can’t emphasise this enough when you have a child with additional needs.
I plan activities in advance and that way the holidays don’t seem so daunting. I check out all the activities that are on especially for children with additional needs. This way Reuben will probably be with children that he knows from school or other clubs he attends, and they will be run in a way that suits Reuben i.e quiet with not too many children etc. Book these clubs/activities early so that they get a place.
2. TRY TO STAY IN ROUTINE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Reuben loves routine. When things change and he doesn’t know what’s happening, it makes his anxiety heighten along with his stress levels (and mine). I try to get up at the same time (yes, its annoying not laying in bed or staying in your pajamas all morning), keep breakfast routine the same and lay out his clothes for the day as I would for school days. Brushing teeth and getting hair done also helps as this sets Reuben up for the day. Once his morning routine is done, we are then ready to face the day.
3. CHILD FRIENDLY CALENDAR OR VISUAL TIMETABLE
One thing that unsettles Reuben is the not knowing what he is doing. At school, he has a clear timetable of the activities/lessons that he is doing throughout the day. He can go and look at this and instantly see what he is doing that day. I have brought Reuben a calendar that has big clear boxes to write in. I have written down all the activities that are happening throughout the summer. This way he can look at the calendar and see in an instant what we are doing that week.
For children that can’t read – use a visual timetable. This can be made up of symbols, photos etc to show your child what they are doing either that day or that week. all depending on what is best for your child. I will even add on to this calendar when the car is in for service or when Dad is on a trip as he will be around when these things happen and it wouldn’t be such a panic for him.
4. EARLY PARK VISITS
When I say Reuuben doesn’t like the park, its more of a fact that he doesn’t really like other children. They make him anxious as he can’t predict what they are going to do. So, obviously when it’s the summer holidays, the parks in the middle of the afternoon are going to be rammed with hundreds of over excited children (Reuben’s complete and ultimate worse nightmare). To give Reuben the opportunity to play at the park and have that park experience, I get up early and get to the park early. That way the park is more or less empty and Reuben can feel comfortable playing at ease without the stress of other children being loud and boisterous.
5. ONLINE SHOPPING
This is a God send and who ever invented this must be given a medal. Reuben hates shopping of any kind so attempting the weekly food shop with him in tow is a no-no. In the summer holidays I order my food shop online and get it delivered in the morning. This way it comes just in time for when we are nearly out of milk and it can be put away so we can then get on with our day. Reuben usually likes to ‘help’ put it away or get it off the delivery driver … this usually takes me another four hours but hey ho, its something to keep him occupied. If you haven’t got a computer or access to the internet or like me you forget to order it in time, then I do the food shop in the evening when Reuben is in bed. His Dad will stay at home with him and I will trot off to get the food shop done in peace (this also gives you a bit of time by yourself without having the kids asking you a million and one questions and gets you out the house for an hour or so … so a winner all round).
I don’t know about your kids but mine always seem to be hungry when they are at home. They seem to be constantly asking for snacks or helping themselves to food. Everyone loves a picnic, so we have about 7689 of these during the summer holidays and the rain doesn’t put us off. Weather permitting, we have a picnic outside when we can (this can also turn to your advantage as there’s less mess in the house, ha!). We usually invite the various stuffed toys that are piled up in Reuben’s room and on his bed. Of course, British weather isn’t always great and it wouldn’t be much fun sitting in the rain eating soggy sandwiches. So, we have an indoor picnic instead. Again, the stuffed animals all come along and my dining room resembles a Build a Bear shop but its all fun and Reuben enjoys it. There’s nothing better than sitting on a blanket with all the coloured plastic plates or paper plates filled with sausage rolls, sandwiches, chocolate fingers and cake!
7. MOVIE TIME
Whether its raining or sunny, sometimes its just nice to lie on the sofa and watch a classic. Reuben sometimes gets a little tired (and fed up) of being outside so its great when we can put a film on and snuggle on the sofa for a couple of hours. I let him have ‘stinky blanket’, his comforter, so he’s nice and relaxed and we can while away a couple of hours … I can sometimes get a cheeky half hour nap in too! Works for everyone.
8. ASK FOR HELP
A really important one as the summer holidays can be completely exhausting no matter how hard you have planned it. We all need some time on our own so sending the kids off to the grandparents for a couple of hours is great. Not just for them but for us too. Reuben loves to go to his grandparents to play in the garden, visit other family members or just go for tea. I also love it as it gives me some time just to enjoy a cuppa in peace, to catch up on jobs or to spend with my daughters.
Asking for help isn’t failing. At the end of the day, if you are all worn out or loosing your shizzle then you can’t be the best parent to them. By having that time to relax and get your head together, you will be a much nicer, calmer parent to be around, making smiley, happy children.
By Tat I mean Poundland/Poundworld and all those other types of shops toys or crafting equipment. Now, before I get sued, I’m not saying that their stuff is all rubbish or tat but its cheap – it doesn’t matter if it gets broken or thrown away as it doesn’t cost much and it keep the kids amused for a few hours. I usually go into these shops before the holidays and stock up on arty things or stuff for the garden, then on rainy days or those afternoons when you feel like you’re tearing your hair out, pull the tat out and it can keep them quiet for a while. Top tip … items from these shops also make brilliant rewards if you have a behaviour chart on the go!
And last but not least..
10. BEDTIME ROUTINE
As I mentioned before, Reuben is most happy when he is in a routine so bedtime is no different. I always keep these the same as when he is at school. Don’t get me wrong, he stays up a little later, but keeping the whole routine before bed is always the same. Baths or showers followed by drink and snack (which will probably be his 898095 snack of the day) then tele time and bed. I find by letting Reuben have his tele time, it calms him down in time for getting some sleep. It also gives me an extra half hour to either run around and tidy the house or collapse into the sofa for a bit of quiet time.
I really hope these have been helpful but remember the main aim is to have fun. It doesn’t matter that your house doesn’t look like a show home for next six weeks or that the ironing pile resembles Mount Everest. At the end of the day when they go back to school in September, all they and you will remember is the wonderful memories …
Have fun and if all else fails, drink wine ????