The weather is dropping light hints that we may be ready for something of a summer season, and the kids are dropping much heavier hints that they are absolutely ready for a ‘schools out’ season.
The children are elated, the teachers are even happier still, and the parents and foster carers…? Well, they’d be lying if they said they weren’t to some extent dreading it.
Parents love their kids, of course, and relish any opportunity to spend time with them; watching them grow, develop and have fun. At this time of year, social media posts of fun family photographs get tagged with #MakingMemories and other such inspirational comments, but six weeks is a bloody long time, and even the most patient of parents needs a day off from this most precious of periods. Raising kids is one thing, but keeping them entertained is another thing entirely.
As foster parent, the pressure can be even more intense, as there is unlikely to be the kind of relationship in place where you feel you can just let your kids ‘get on’ with stuff. On one hand, you always feel a little guilty that the child in your care may have suffered neglect at times like this, and therefore ‘deserves’ to be showered with activities, events and trips out every day of the week. Entertaining or spoiling them isn’t your responsibility, though; helping them feel safe, loved and independent is.
Additionally, if the placement is very new, there will be that natural feeling that you really want the child in your care to settle with you and for them to like you, trust you and want to be with you. With those things in your thoughts, you will in fact drive yourself both crazy and into debt if you decide to journey along a path of constant entertainment planning for said child, whereby every day is a diarised list of things to do, places to go and people to see.
Whatever the parental status, and whatever the child’s situation, six week stimulation is unsustainable. With this in mind, I only have one piece of real advice for anyone with kids as we hit the school holidays this summer…
…don’t be afraid to let your children be bored!
I’m not going to get all psychological about this statement and philosophise you with studies or theories – although they are both out there! I simply state it as advice because I personally believe it to be good sense for two key reasons:
- The more activities, events, parties, trips and holidays you try to cram into a set period of time will each start to lose effect because the child in question will have nothing to compare them to. They will come to expect these constant ‘highs’ and this will make any downtime they unavoidably have to go through unbearable for you as they just won’t cope! They will learn to expect the buzz and thrill of constant activity and will lose the concept of free or regular time – and the skills they need to build to be resourceful, creative and independent.
- As an adult, you get bored. It sounds harsh, but it’s important that kids can build resilience early on to accept and deal with that feeling of boredom at least at some point in their childhood, because let’s face it, when they grow up and start work, the minute they decide they are thoroughly uninspired at their desk one day, nobody is necessarily going to whisk them off to DisneyLand.
I’m not saying leave your kids in a darkened room somewhere with no interaction or stimulus of any kind during the next six weeks, but instead what I mean is to remember that kids have a capacity to entertain themselves, and it’s both a life skill and a necessity for them to adapt to such scenarios. Let them make the decision to play out with friends and make up games and adventures; let them take the initiative to sit with toys they already have and make creative use of them; let them get involved with something that may help you out around the house or with work – it’s all positive interaction.
These coming six weeks are classed as a break, and you should benefit from that too, wherever possible.