Your summer school holiday survival guide

It is possible to make it through the next six weeks with your kids – without losing your sanity.

The lazy days of summer may be wildly anticipated by the kids, but for parents the thought of keeping them entertained over six long weeks can send stress levels skyrocketing.

It even has its own acronym – FOSH, or fear of summer holidays!

“It is a lot of pressure, particularly if you work full time,” says Friendly Psychologist and mum-of-two Jacqui Manning.

“I’m lucky in that my work is fairly flexible and so I can make it work around kids during the holidays, but lots of parents don’t have that option.

“It can be an expensive time of year, too. Parents are scared of their kids being bored; they feel like they constantly need to be productive and fill the space with activities and that all adds up.”

Forking out a fortune

In fact, a study has found Aussie parents are so scared that their kids are missing out they’re spending a small fortune on holiday entertainment.

Research commissioned by the Commonwealth Bank found the so-called “Bank of Mum and Dad” is dishing out more than $368 million to keep children amused during the Christmas holidays.

Our top school holiday survival hacks

We’ve found plenty of ways you can give the kids a holiday to remember without breaking the bank, while getting some essential “you time”.

Let your kids ‘just be’

If the kids are complaining they’re bored, that’s a good thing.

“They need space, they need to rest, they need to take those moments and go off and daydream and maybe get creative, the way we used to do when we were kids,” Jacqui says. “So let them be.”

While they’re having downtime, take time for you, too. Pick up a book or go for a long walk.

“We’re so hyper-vigilant these days and need to be around the kids every second – as long as they’re old enough it’s OK to leave them at home for short periods of time,” Jacqui says.

school holiday survival

Get outdoors

Unstructured outdoor play delivers all sorts of awesome benefits for kids, from improving their physical and cognitive function to increasing their creativity and even immunity.

Remember the fun you had building cubbies, fishing in dams, digging holes at the beach and making sandcastles with your friends?

Your kids will love it too and there’s nothing like a few hours of running around in the fresh air to tire them out!

Share the load

Every parent you know is going through the same stresses over the holidays, so don’t be afraid to reach out to see if you can take it in turns to host play dates.

Yes, it may mean you’re extra busy some days, but the kids will love it.

And when it comes to your turn for some time off, so will you – even if it’s just to catch up on the shopping and chores while listening to your own music instead of The Wiggles on repeat!

Plan ahead when it comes to work

For many of us, work doesn’t just “stop” in the school holidays.

Talk to your boss and your partner or other family members about an arrangement that’s going to work for you and the kids.

Maybe it means getting up super early and knocking off a few hours work from home before breakfast so you can have the afternoons free. Or maybe it’s taking alternate days off.

Technology makes it possible to write reports or presentations and check emails from the park, beach or bowling alley – just make sure everyone is on board with your plan.

school holiday survival

Don’t let screen-battle dominate your break

Find a happy medium when it comes to technology, says Jacqui, who recommends having at least a few completely screen-free days.

“It’s really important not to let the holidays slip by on a screen,” she says.

“Yes, you might have a day or two of crankiness but then the kids will dig out the LEGO and their toys and games, and you’ll find that siblings actually start playing together and fighting less.”

Don’t forget community activities

Check in with your local council and get on the email lists for local community centres – there are usually all sorts of free holiday activities you can tap into.

The library is also a wonderful haven for a quiet hour or two out of the sun.

And finally … make it a summer to remember

“I think it’s really important to remember that you only have 18 summers with your child and this is one of them,” Jacqui cautions.

“They’re going to try to grow up all too soon and want to be out with their own friends, so find the joy in it and make it a time to remember!”

Written by Liz McGrath.