As a positive parenting guest speaker, I often take holidays over the festive season when the speaking circuit is quiet. I’ve been on holiday for two weeks but now it’s back to school and work. It’s been great to sleep in, eat breakfast late, not plan anything in particular and to generally make the day up as we go. Some nights we have gone to bed late and others very early. We have been going with the flow, so to speak – all 12 of us.
It’s been fun sharing a room with our two nieces for five days and talking late into the night, so much so that my husband wanted to know where the hot chocolate, marshmallows and Marie Biscuits were for a midnight feast!
It’s been a delight to watch my teenage son be a brilliant playmate non-stop for his four-year old cousin, and to play hysterical family games together. And it’s been the first year in 20 that our eldest son has flown the coup and not shared our family holiday with us, and we have had to get comfortable with that! Being a parent means getting comfortable with constant growth and change brought about by the human beings we are blessed with.
However, being away on a holiday with family and friends is a bit like living in a fish bowl. It’s always fascinating to see what makes families work and what the catalysts are that create chaos and meltdowns. There is no rocket science to this, it’s really quite simple and it happens in every family.
What makes families work:
- Love and acceptance
- Belonging and togetherness
- Family leadership that keeps manipulation from children in check
- Teamwork between mum and dad if both are present
- Distracting children from what they shouldn’t be doing to help you avoid constant disciplining which can be exhausting for everyone
- Creating interesting outings and activities to do as a family
- Getting enough sleep
- Routine (regular wake up times, meal times, bath time and bedtime are the basics)
Catalysts for family chaos:
- Hungry children
- Tired children who are desperate for bed
- Parents who are on their own pluck forgetting the need for predictability in a child’s day, especially children under the age of 8, and those children who thrive on lots of sleep (some children are less able to cope with irregular bed times than others)
- Parents fighting/disagreeing all the time (makes children feel unsafe)
- Parents who are unfocused on the children even though they are physically present – this is when children nag in order to get their parent’s attention
- Lack of routine
Tips for parents: Seven steps to family sanity when going back to school
Now that the holidays are over, take the lessons from the lists above and put them into practise as you ease back into work and getting your children back to school:
- Bring back regular wake up times
- Make sure your children go to bed at the same time every night and get enough sleep
- Eat meals at the same time every night
- Try and eat at least one meal a day together where you all connect with each other (switch the TV and cellphones off)
- Get back to each member of the family doing their allotted chores every day
- Resume reading bedtime stories to your pre- and primary school children if this fell by the wayside on holiday
- If you have more than one child, make sure you settle the rules around who sits where in the car on the way to school so that you don’t have a major negotiation or fight on your hands every morning
Follow these seven steps to family sanity and have a great start to the new year.