After months of disappointment, life being tipped upside down and some massive changes to daily routines, as adults we can feel discombobulated, and for children, many feel like their brains are about to explode.
Supporting children to make sense of the world and to feel safer is key to building their resilience and helping them to manage natural anxiety. With the summer holidays now upon us, there is a wonderful opportunity to support children to start putting their worlds back into order so that they are well prepared for the return to school.
Our brains run on patterns; every opportunity, sensory experience, place we visit, thing we hear is quickly run back to our brains stored knowledge to check if it is ‘safe’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘similar’ to what we have known before. If something matches then we can push forward, if not, it can raise anxiety levels, adrenalin or fear responses. For many children, this can lead to difficulties with situations such as:
- Managing change and transitions
- Regulating their emotions
- Coping with expectations
- Hearing the word ‘no’ or not being able to control things
- Listening and connecting
- Understanding the concept of time
So, how can we support them?
The summer holidays, much like lockdown, can quickly dissolve into days which blend into one another, difficulty motivating ourselves and feeling challenged to know what to do with ourselves. Having had nearly 6 months at home by the time school commences in September, for some children the return to education will feel like a mountain to climb, for others adjusting back to the routines will feel terrifying, for some they will run through the doors eager to return to the familiar.
Using the summer holidays to implement positive changes to support the transitions is a key opportunity to support positive mental well-being. Key skills such as:
- Managing expectations
- Understanding concepts of time
- Listening to others ideas
- Learning to plan for the present and future
- Developing patience and understanding
Can be developed with easy strategies at home.
You can download our Summer Holiday Planner HERE to help you.
Supporting children to develop routines, planning and anticipation are core skills that support the brain to feel safe, know what is coming and feel included and heard. It is also a positive opportunity to support children to contribute to the household and recognise that we cannot have everything at once.
All you need to do is:
1.Sit down as a family and brainstorm all the activities (at home and out) that children would like to complete over the summer.
(This can include arts and crafts, games, movies, trips, meet ups with friends and family, baking, science experiments, visits, exercise, physical activities etc)
2. Introduce the planner and explain to children that you can plan morning and afternoon activities to ensure that everyone’s ideas are included in the summer.
(It is best to complete 2-3 weeks at a time, to allow for changes, big plans and events without having to create huge alterations)
(If your child can become easily anxious, complete one week at a time to develop their confidence in planning)
3. First, add any key activities to the plan, such as birthdays, trips, events and non-negotiables. You may want to colour code these so they stand out.
4. Together, identify activities that match up e.g. an active morning with a creative afternoon, or a big day activity which may be the sole activity.
5. Add the activities to your planner, encourage children to think about where they want to put things, and support them to ensure that everyone’s ideas are included. This may include chores that parents need to complete that children will need to help with.
6. Once your planner is complete, display it somewhere where children can see it – you may want to create a copy for each of their bedrooms so that they can consult it themselves and cross off the days as things are completed.
7. Praise children for supporting the planner, encourage them to refer to it and check of there are things you need e.g. ingredients, art materials etc. so they develop skills of forward planning and preparation.
8. If changes need to be made, sit down together to complete them so that children are involved in the process.
You can find your planner here to download and print -> DOWNLOAD