Positive parenting in the school holidays

For many parents, especially those of children with challenges, the school holidays can be a difficult time.

The lack of routine just doesn’t suit all children. We have some tips:

Stay positive

Try a new tactic – say yes more often than you say no. This doesn’t mean letting the children take charge, it just means finding more inventive ways to reply to their constant chants of ‘can I have?’ and ‘I want…’

Sunflower CEO Nichola Atkinson explains: “Agree to things on your terms. Instead of always saying no, try things like: ‘that’s a great idea, we can do that tomorrow after we have done the shopping’. Or: ‘yes an ice cream would be okay after you have eaten your tea later’.”

Screen time

Set rules for screen time in advance to prevent daily arguments. Again, agreeing the boundaries keeps it positive. It could mean a set amount of time each day, tablet time at a designated time of day or computer time once they have completed their chores.


Try to keep a regular bedtime in place –  even if this is slightly later than during the school term. This goes a long way towards keeping children settled and also ensuring they get enough sleep.

Plan in advance

Most children like to know what is happening in advance and this can help to reduce any anxiety or stress. Try to plan at least a few days ahead so they know what to expect. It is useful to have a calendar up on the wall so that everyone can see what is happening each day.

Ideas lists

Have fun drawing up some ideas lists together that you can call upon throughout the holidays. You can have different lists for days out, smaller activities to do together, activities for the children to do on their own.

Activities for children to do on their own are really useful for times when you just want a rest, need to do the housework, catch up on some emails etc. Ideas will vary from age to age but could include:

  • Bug/leaf hunt in the garden
  • A mini photography project
  • Some fitness challenges (how long can they run on the spot, keepy-uppys, balance on one leg, sit-ups, burpees)
  • Make their own snap cards
  • Lego challenges

Keep calm

When stress levels rise, try Sunflower’s five steps to calm:

  1. Uninterrupted breathing – encourage your child to spend a few moments concentrating on their breathing. This will calm their body down and also serve as a distraction.
  2. Positive face – ask your child to do a silly smile; it’s definitely much harder to feel angry or stressed when you are smiling.
  3. Balanced posture – stand up tall together, releasing tension and helping the blood flow.
  4. Release muscle tension – help your child to feel more relaxed by concentrating on thinking about something calm and enjoyable.
  5. Mental control – encourage some positive thoughts and help your child to feel in control by asking: “What could you do to make yourself feel better?”

Keep a healthy diet

We all know sugar is bad, but keeping sugar levels down is easier said than done in the holidays. Try to balance out the inevitable treats with some lovely salads and exciting fruit cocktails. Encourage them to choose some fresh veg in the supermarket to get them trying something new.

Prepare for the return to school

The return to school can be traumatic for many children. Things that can help the transition include:

  • Keeping in touch with school friends in the holidays
  • Having fun choosing some new pencils/school bag/pencil case/shoes etc
  • Chatting about their teacher
  • Sticking as close as possible to the daily routine for meals and bed
  • Going for a walk past the school a couple of times to keep it a familiar place

Sunflower’s guide to helping children enjoy school may also be useful: http://www.sunflowertrust.com/2017/09/06/helping-children-enjoy-school/

If your child is struggling to cope, or you feel they need extra support, contact the Sunflower Programme: 01483 531498, enquiries@sunflowertrust.com, www.sunflowertrust.com

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