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Finding ways to unwind together

As schools begin to break up for the summer, Katharine Hill, UK director of Care for the Family, encourages parents to remember that they truly are the people best placed to help their children adjust.

It seems that change is here to stay. Heroic parents juggling home-schooling and home-working breathed a corporate sigh of relief as schools reopened, only to find that entire classes were being sent home at regular intervals to self-isolate. And for children who were able to stay at school, no sooner have they settled into some kind of routine than the calendar has rolled into July and the end of the school year, beckoning in yet more change.

Traditionally, end-of-year exams, sports days, fetes and end-of-term parties herald the excitement of the long-awaited summer holidays, but the pandemic has put a stop to these ritual events and continues to cast a long shadow even over our summer plans.

These last 18 months have been a time of extraordinary change for our children, and it’s unrealistic to think that, as restrictions lift, life will simply return to normal. In fact, many parents are already discovering that helping their children transition out of lockdown is at least, if not more, difficult than helping them into it in the first place.

But, despite the challenges, the good news is that as their parents, we are the ones who are best placed to help our children navigate these difficult times, and the summer holidays are a great opportunity to do just that. After such an intense time of change and transition, rather than worrying about missed maths and geography lessons, parents can best build their children’s emotional wellbeing by taking the pressure off and intentionally finding ways to help them unwind, relax and de-stress for the season ahead.

As welcome as an exotic holiday in the sun might be, this doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Some of the best ways to slow down and chill out can be found in the simple things of everyday family life. Every family is different, so do whatever works for you and your children. Here are a few suggestions:

· Order a takeaway or cook a special meal to celebrate the end of the school year and having made it through this challenging time as a family.

· Have an awards evening, celebrating character, effort and perseverance shown by your children during the pandemic.

· Plan fun activities that will build memories – a water fight, a treasure hunt, a Lego project, camping in the garden, a home-grown talent show or a music festival with everyone taking part.

· Encourage your children to reconnect with friends via play dates, sleepovers, games nights and other opportunities to simply hang out with peers.

· Revisit your family’s ground rules around screen time (which inevitably will have changed during the pandemic).

· Occasionally relax bedtimes and enjoy a lie in.

And finally, as all-encompassing as the pandemic has been, it’s good to remember that it is one chapter of our children’s lives and not the whole story. With the right support from us, they have every chance of coming through the other side happy, healthy and even having learnt something from it. And the summer holidays is a great place to begin.

Katharine Hill is the UK director of Care for the Family. She has recently written a book looking at how parents can boost the emotional wellbeing of their children: A Mind of Their Own (Muddy Pearl).

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