Dr Catherine Wikholm
Jokes aside, psychologist and mother, Dr Catherine Wikholm, has given us her top tips to survive summer holiday blues:
1. Spend time outside.
Spending time in nature is proven to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and help you feel more relaxed. Plus, it gives the kids a chance to run around and burn off some energy. Aim to get outside for a couple of hours in the morning and reap the benefits for the rest of the day.
2. Plan ahead.
Deciding ahead of time what you will do with the kids each day can help to reduce stress by enabling an increased sense of structure to the summer holidays. Having some fun activities already planned for a week or two ahead can also help ease any mum guilt that might rear its head over having the odd 'boring' day, or afternoon of screen-time in the meantime. Letting kids know about the planned activities also allows them to experience a sense of positive, which can boost feelings of happiness and excitement in the present.
3. When things go wrong, try a 'do-over'.
When you notice your emotions getting the better of you and you're not parenting how you would like to be, this is where the 'do-over' can really save the day. Just stop and breathe, so you can feel calmer. Secondly, apologise and offer a hug. This reconnects you and your child. Thirdly, suggest the do-over. Start the activity or task again, and this time, you and your child play it out differently, in a calmer, more connected way, as you would have wanted it to go.
4. Pay attention to the positives.
At the end of a tough day with the kids, it's easy to fall into a negative state of mind and write the whole thing off as a 'bad day'. To counteract this, try to intentionally notice the positives of each day - any sweet moments or small acts of kindness.
5. Think of relaxation as a necessity not a luxury.
Try to ensure that you take some time for yourself at the end of each day to wind down and relax. This should be seen as something essential rather than a luxury. Relaxation and down-time isn't something indulgent - it is necessary.
6. Don't make social media comparisons.
Remind yourself that on social media you're mostly only seeing other people's highlight reel. You're not seeing the mundane daily battles about getting shoes on, kids bickering or complaining they are bored, and the everyday mess and mayhem that is a normal part of family life.
7. Arrange playdates.
Arranging playdates is a great way of meeting your kids' social needs AND your own. They get to have fun with friends, the pressure is off you to be their source of entertainment, and you get to have some adult conversation - it's a win-win.
8. Aim for 'good enough' parenting, not perfect parenting.
Perfect parents don't exist and setting the bar so high will only lead to inevitable feelings of failure, stress and anxiety. Take the pressure off by letting go of unrealistic perfection, and instead aim for 'good enough' parenting. It's OK if we aren't ready and able to fully meet all our children's needs 100% of the time. In fact, learning to tolerate minor disappointments and frustrations can be helpful for children in terms of giving them opportunity to build their resilience, problem solving skills and independence.
9. Take care of your physical health.
Physical health and mental health are interrelated - so if we want to be able to cope with stress as well as we can over the summer holidays, we need to ensure we look after our physical health. This might look like ensuring that we are eating well, staying hydrated, being physically active, and prioritising sleep where we can. When we are caring for kids day in day out, it is easy for our own needs to slip to the bottom of the pile or become ignored, which can contribute to feelings of stress, frustration and exhaustion.
10. Laugh it out.
Laughter can bring a host of psychological benefits including improving mood, reducing stress and increasing our sense of connectedness to others. While parenting can of course be stressful, being around the antics of young kids can also provide a lot of opportunity for laughter and silliness, so let yourself fully embrace the funny or ridiculous moments of parenting when they happen. Watching or listening to comedy can also be great for some light-hearted stress relief after the kids are in bed.