Summer is finally here and the sunny weather is spreading the good news like wild fire! After the enormous squeeze of the beginning of the year, many of us are looking to summer for a chance to refresh, like an oasis in the desert. The shapelessness, the absence of homework, the sunshine all call to us, but we know it’s not going to be wall to wall joy.
Even the best laid plans can be scuppered by squabbling kids, work demands and Covid curveballs. How can we prepare for the rollercoaster of emotions we’re all likely to face and eke out as much of the juicy goodness humanly possible? Here is a plan!
1) Set realistic expectations
While we all look to summer with great optimism we can set ourselves up for disappointment when we have unrealistic expectations of the holidays, of our kids and of ourselves. It’s amazing how kids can decide not to play ball even when you’ve worked hard on planning something exciting for them! All par for the course – you are not alone on this one. This has been such a tough 18 months on everyone and the depletion is real. Depending on how old your children are, you could sit down together and reflect on what you have all weathered, what you have overcome. We’re all tired and fragile for good reason, so let’s all go gently and take the opportunity to marvel in our grit and staying power too.
2) Give it some shape
Setting a loose intention or thinking about how you’d like to use your summer break can give you clarity, purpose and make decision making simpler. You might have some family goals or practical projects that you can enjoy together, anything from making memories, topping up the collective energy bank, exploring your own city or investing time in the garden. Write down on a wall poster some intentions, family contracts of what you all agree to contribute, or mission statements with the kinds of values and qualities that are important to you all. This gives us a chance to call out the good too – when we see our kids demonstrating these qualities we can praise their efforts, boosting their confidence and self-esteem and deepening our bonds in the process. You could also try some of the soothing practices in the Nourish App together – your kids might enjoy the breathing practices and yoga as much as you do. Make your own happiness treasure chest so there is something to turn to whenever boredom hits.
3) Make space for ALL the emotions
In every day there will be moments of delight, meh moments and dire ones… this is the reality of parenthood at the best of times, let alone in the current circumstances where we are still living amidst restrictions in how we can live our lives. Understand that kids will be kids and their emotions can be explosive. Disappointment might loom large this year with travel restrictions, the weather putting the kibosh on outdoor plans and just the everyday challenge of thwarted will. Proactively spend some time coming up with emotional first aid toolkits with your kids. You might be blown away by the suggestions they bring. Think along the lines of “when I am feeling sad I will…” or “when I am feeling cross I can…” Having a plan is empowering and knowing there are a number of different things to try can be comforting.
4) Coping with uncertainty
It is so hard to plan right now, and we all know how painful some of the U-turns have been in the last 18 months. It is difficult too when so many of our plans now are weather dependent. Making plans give us something to look forward to but when they don’t come off we need something to minimise the fall out. Right now we might need to make peace with having to resort to plan B, plan C or even further down the list. Having a backup might just save the day or rather than grand and elaborate events, set your sights on simpler, more achievable things like a family picnic or having a “gratitude dinner”. Remember, it won’t be like this forever and we’ve got to do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe and healthy.
5) Keeping collective calm
Rather than just relying on a toolkit of things to do when it all goes awry, think about the scaffolding that you need in your day as a parent to function. Make a mind map of the things that you know you need – the energy bank basics like nutrition, hydration, movement, connection, sleep and rest, and think about how you can meet those needs in the constraints of summer. Maybe they need to take a different shape but how can you make sure they still get a look in – your health is important too! Become skilled in giving voice to what you need, scheduling time for you and getting organised to allow the time and space for the kind of nourishing activities that you need to be able to keep giving and keep going. We all need regular pressure releases in our day, opportunities to let off steam so use the Nourish App to make a list of things that can help you access your calm in the moment. Permission to be just one human being too. We can’t be all things to all people in every moment so let guilt slide from your shoulders and know that pockets of presence and connection is more than enough.
About the author
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.
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