How to ‘nail’ the summer holidays

Suggestions to help you consider how you can navigate the summer as those caring through fostering, adoption or supported lodgings.

“Nailed it” - an expression used to comment on the successful, skilful or clever completion or performance of something

OK, I’ll admit the title may be a little misleading as it may imply that there has been a six-eight week stretch of school holidays that I have ‘nailed’ which is not the full picture.

Have you seen the show on Netflix called ‘Nailed it’? The premise is that home bakers, with a distinct lack of skill, play for a cash prize (and a chance to demonstrate their ability/redeem their reputation) by attempting to re-create edible works of art created by professionals.

The results can be disastrous and are often hilarious. I love the effort that people put in and their desire to ‘nail it’ even if that’s not backed up by skill or preparation!

It doesn’t take much effort for me to recall some days of past summer holidays that have felt like one of those disastrous episodes in the ‘nailed it’ kitchen. Even the best laid plans can get derailed by dysregulated children (or adults), the UK weather or any number of external circumstances.

This summer, as the cost of living rises, many of us face increasing challenges as we navigate all of that with the additional complexity of tighter budgets and therefore fewer options.

There are currently four children in our family – pre and primary school age boys and teenage girls –and their different (and usually conflicting) needs and wants can feel overwhelming, particularly while both me and my husband are working. As those who love and are raising children with experience of care, much of this is amplified because the summer can be tricky.

This article offers some suggestions to help you consider how you can navigate the summer as those caring through fostering, adoption or supported lodgings.

1. PLAN PLAN PLAN

      One of my plan-loving husband’s favourite phrases is that ‘time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’, which is great if you’re a military commander, but not one I love in relation to a weekly grocery shop.

      However, with the range of ages and needs in our family, planning for the holidays is vital. This is usually a giant timetable that gets displayed somewhere that’s visual for those who need that reassurance, and is a helpful check for us as grown-ups so we can make sure the overall rhythm is balanced.

      Tip: Get the kids involved. I have memories from my childhood of arriving at a holiday cottage somewhere in the UK. Before anything else, my Dad would empty the box of leaflets for local attractions and invite us to choose three places, in order of preference. From that, he would then create a chart showing what we were doing, and when. As a teenager, I rolled my eyes (and refused to engage at all for at least one year!) but in hindsight, I look back and love his desire to include and engage us.

      Get your children involved in planning so they have ownership. They can be excited for things they’ve chosen and gives you an opportunity to manage expectations.


      2.
      NO FILTERS HERE

            It’s so easy to scroll through social media and see pictures from other people’s highlight reel of their ‘perfect’ family holiday and feel jealous or to compare that moment with your ‘worst’ summer holiday moment.

            When you’re raising children with experience of the care system, there will be things that you aren’t able to do or access for a variety of reasons, whether that’s for a season or longer term. It’s OK to grieve some of the loss we feel and acknowledge the impact for the children we love and are raising.

            What we need to pay attention to is when that creeps into resentment, because that will rob us more. Let’s live unfiltered lives, beyond just a feature on social media, and celebrate both the moments of joy with our family as well as acknowledging the more difficult reality.

            A powerful way to do this is to remember the call on our lives, to these children at this time and the privilege it is, even in the challenging moments.

            3. GET OUT

              Get into the outdoors as often as possible. Find the places that work best for your family. For us, that ‘what works best’ usually looks like combining a large park or open space for the boys to run or wrestle with somewhere that serves hot chocolate or iced frappes as an inducement for the teenagers to come.

              The combination of pushing a toddler endlessly on a swing, watching out for my eight-year-old as he climbs anything possible ever higher, holding a phone to film a TikTok for my teenager whilst chatting to the other teenager about her latest plans can be exhausting. I often feel pulled in multiple directions, but being outside is good for the soul!

              4. I’M BOOOORREEEED

                Last summer, I sat with my eldest three to create a list of things unique to each of them that they enjoy doing in or around the house and/or independently. From hama beads to swings, baking to nail art, facetiming friends to digging in the garden, we had a list of 10-20 things per child.

                So, when any of them said variations of ‘I’m bored,’ I could direct them to the list we’d prepared together. Each child needed different levels of support to participate, even once they’d identified the activities. Some days it worked brilliantly as a tool to encourage independence and deter boredom, and on other days it didn’t work at all, but when it worked, it meant I didn’t need to have on-the-spot ideas!

                5. CONSISTENT BOUNDARIES

                  For children with care experience, routine and consistency often equal safety. Summer can bring changing rhythms, and therefore it can be more challenging for them (and us) to stay regulated.

                  The temptation can be to relax boundaries, and for some that’s helpful and appropriate, but for many it can have the opposite effect! For example, for our boys, the morning routine remains the same Monday to Friday and at weekends in terms of what’s for breakfast, when TV time is allowed and when we get dressed. For my teenagers, we flex on when they get up and what’s for breakfast but not when/if/where screens are allowed.

                  Many families are able to abandon their normal routine, but let this be an encouragement to you that you are the expert in your family, so do what works best for you and be consistent where you need to in order to set your kids up to win!

                  6. DON’T DO LIFE ALONE

                    This summer, say yes to the offers of help! Make requests for support from your church, family and friends. Invite others for playdates or evening hangouts (depending on how old your kids are) and include people whose company gives you life.

                    We were not created to do life on our own, so lean in to those relationships because it spreads the load, mental and physical!

                    7. YOU MATTER

                      Last summer, on day 23/48 (yes I did count), I took a day off work and sent the children to a combination of clubs, friend’s and grandparent’s houses, and I read a book for a whole day. The organisation for this day was a little stressful, but it left me re-energised, it increased my peace and gave me headspace to ponder the remaining days of the holiday.

                      The day after included some challenge that wouldn’t have been there had I not taken that day, but I was better able to respond well to it.

                      Parents, carers, hosts, family members – you matter. Investing in what gives you rest and joy is so important this summer as you pour yourself out in loving and raising your children.

                      The only change to this that I’m making this year is that I’m also going to take a day off work on the first day that all four children are due back in their places of education.

                      8. PRAY

                        We’ve saved the most important until last. Prayer is not a last resort but a great starting place as we lay foundations for the weeks ahead. Pray for your children, your family, the summer, the things inducing anxiety and the things you’re excited for. Pray for the clubs, activities, playdates, days at home, time with others, that it would be infused with the Holy Spirit and His peace.

                        Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

                        This month’s prayer resource is a great place to start to guide your prayers. Check it out here.


                        Last year, #hotgirlsummer was trending on social media. This year, my teenage daughter has informed me that the new trend is #bestsummerever – and asked what I was going to do to make that possible for her. I’m not sure I can honestly promise that that hashtag will be true for us this year; but I do hope and pray that these eight suggestions will help make this summer for my family, for your family, and for families in your church or community, one filled with special moments of rest, laughter, as much stability as we can manage, and quality time spent together. Nailed it.

                        Author:
                        Claire at Home for Good


                        Date published:
                        June 2022


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