So you know all about holiday parenting? Think again
Don't fret away about your getaway - it's about lightening up and going 'unplugged', reckons an expert
It’s time to unlearn everything you know about holiday parenting. The routine, the strict screen time, the goals, the standards; when you go away this year, drop it all; “unparenting”, if you like. After all, it’s 2018. We’ve all thrown out the rule book.
But what does this mean for holidays? You’ve already booked. Everyone’s excited. How can you ensure that this year’s trip is a success? By lightening up.
Holidays hinge on your ability to find escapism, according to Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, the consultant clinical psychologist of The Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year Olds. And this means committing to ditching the normal routine: “If you’re on holiday, you don’t have to do what my kids call ‘#parentinggoals’ 24/7,” says Kilbey.
For some families, that may mean more tech time, she says, because it allows parents to relax. That’s your new #unparenting goal right there.Kilbey, author of Unplugged Parenting, advises parents to set clear expectations for tech use: “Be explicit about wifi. Are you prepared to purchase it? Your idea of an Enid Blyton utopia may not be your teen or tween’s ideal; people may need different versions of ‘happy’ to equally enjoy the experience.” And don’t beat yourself up: “You can leave your guilt at home,” says Kilbey.
Whether there’s a kids’ club on site, or a desire for mom or dad to relax and read, Kilbey counsels parents to be clear with children about the balance they expect. “It’s fine to say: ‘I need to do something for me’; it’s about teaching them the give and take of family life. Most children are just happy to have you there, not at work, in your holiday mode.”
If children are young, bring surprise items to keep them entertained. Buy those overpriced colouring books, or bring a few board games and barter, advises Kilbey: “Say: ‘I’ll play one round of Go Fish with you, then I’ll read a chapter of my book.’”Teens will want more space, she says. “You have to be given responsibility to develop more of it. Provided you’ve checked the parameters of where you are, holidays can be a good time to give children some freedom.” If you’re unsure how to lure your teenager into wanting to spend time with you, Kilbey has an easy solution: throw some money at it.
“You need to manage expectations and divide up: we’ll have a day at the water parks in exchange for a day on the beach where I’ll read my book and you will occupy yourself. It’s a simple bartering system, but they need to go first,” she warns. “This is an introduction to the world,” she adds, “teaching them these negotiating skills early on is helpful.”
And her top tip is to schedule an activity a day. “Keep them physical, busy, outside, moving, exploring,” she says. “Introduce the new and the novel.”If you’re going away with friends or extended family, the secret to group happiness is simple: “You’re going to have to lighten up,” says Kilbey. Grandparents will want to spoil the children; your obsessively organised friend will want to organise. Let them.
“If something’s not working, keep the bigger picture top of your mind: this is a holiday. If children are occupied enough, they tend not to fight. If the holiday is too unstructured, young children can’t cope with that. Each morning, have a quick conversation about what you’re doing that day, and jot them down, so everyone knows.”
– © The Daily Telegraph