School summer holidays. Weeks of bliss, right? Fun days out, educational-ish trips, the odd ice-cream treat, enjoying the sun, no deadlines, quality family time. That’s how it is supposed to be with children, isn’t it? Except, how often is that really our experience?
We have grand ideas about how nice it will be to spend time with the kids without so many pressures. Those of us who work can think, well, at least we can have some nice weekends or the odd day off together and no nagging about homework! Maybe we have actually planned a holiday away. We have thought about it for ages, chosen where we want to go, thought about things to occupy and entertain every member of the family...
But the reality of summer holidays for many is stress, arguments, bored kids, expensive childcare, and the reminder that being a parent is really difficult! For most of us, it’s a combination of both of those. We have some great times with our children and make really important, fun memories for our kids. But we also work really hard and struggle through the strops and the lack of routine or things to do.
For some parents though, summer holidays can also be the time when you realize that the niggling doubt you had about whether something wasn’t quite right with your child becomes a shouting voice of “Argh! There is a problem!”
Whether their behaviour is unmanageable; they seem miserable even doing something fun; their attention span is too short to finish anything or the gap between what their younger siblings seem able to do and what they can cope with is wider than you had realised. It can be a time when uncomfortable worries about your child or your family can surface. If that describes you, it is worth seeking support. Don’t let it fester. Sense check with friends or family that you trust, get an idea of whether the concerns you have are just normal summer-holiday stresses, or whether there is a worry you want to do something about. Ask to see a GP, a health visitor or go and see another professional.
As a Clinical Psychologist I provide parenting advice for lots of scenarios. I am always happy to offer one-off consultations to sign-post the best way forward, even if ongoing therapy isn’t necessary or possible. We would all much rather see kids earlier, so that something can be changed, than wait until it's a crisis. Because let’s be honest. No summer holidays are perfect. But they can be a window of opportunity to spot a difficulty and make changes before the new school year starts in earnest. They are a chance to give your child and their difficulties a bit more time and attention without the stress of school complicating it, to work out what is really going on for them.