Five tips for parents to help survive the summer break

The break from routine is fabulous and the unpredictability is chaotic but school holidays can also be a time of stress when trying to be all things to all people

Week one of the summer holidays – well, for the primary schoolers that is.

Some of the secondary schoolers have been off for five weeks already. Week one of the summer holidays for all of them, and State exams are over. This is bliss. This is freedom. This is nine weeks of no homework, no school lunches and no evening activity runs.

What more could a parent ask for? Well, besides nine weeks of annual leave to bridge the working hours gap and be the parent at home who facilitates the type of school holiday lamentings of yesteryear.

But in the absence of such leave, we need a plan – a survival plan – to get us past those initial days of novelty and enthusiasm, before the feral stage takes over. For me, this is year 18 of surviving the school summer holidays, and I have a particular set of skills.


1) Shift those working hours (if you can)

Sleep is for wimps, according to the great Del Boy. I’ve tried to live by this motto to justify my permanent state of exhaustion these past 22 years. But while I’m not advocating giving it up altogether, it is sometimes a movable feast. Working to the sound of mum, mum, mum, muuuuuum, tends not to be as productive as a few quieter hours before they wake up or after they’ve gone to bed.

Plus it frees up a little time during the day to be present and go to the park all wide-eyed and weary, so that no one on social media can accuse you of clearly hating your kids and not wanting to spend time with them.

Isn’t having it all fun?

2) Stock up on snacks

It’s a bit like reverse hibernation with school kids. During the school year, you go to the trouble of lovingly preparing their lunches, and sending in a snack for little break too. And without fail they’ll bring home those lovingly prepared and carefully wrapped sandwiches and decorative apple, untouched, but covered in yoghurt and mashed banana. And you shall repeat the process every school day until the end of June.

You may wonder how they manage to function and focus in school without having eaten the lunch you lovingly prepared before discarding later that day in the brown bin. The answer is, summer reserves. Which means you’ll need about #372 snacks per child per day. Or #7,951 if you’ve teenage boys.

Do yourself a favour and make sure they’re snacks they can prepare or grab for themselves.

3) Playdate wisely

You can’t beat the freedoms of the past when parents could chuck the children out the front to play all day, returning home exhausted, happy and hungry, and not having been under your feet, wrestling in the sittingroom or knocking nail varnish remover over the small antique table that your husband’s granny gave you, destroying the mahogany surface. But hey Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more. It’s 2023 and even if you’re lucky enough to have a safe green area for them to play, their friends may well be in camps or childcare as parents try to juggle work and school holidays.

Enter the playdate. Company and distraction for your kids and the hope of a return playdate. Yes, a return. Distraction is lovely, but nobody wants to be responsible for even more kids all of the time, particularly when they’re young, on a summer’s afternoon as they try to work. It’s not that it’s tit for tat, or has to be a dead even split. But return the favour at some stage.

If someone suggests they’re happy to always be the host, know they’re probably just being polite.

4) Screentime

Shudder. None of us wants to resort to more of this than absolutely necessary, but cut yourself a little slack over the summer. In moderation (adjusted for the time of year that it is) it can be a Godsend. Rainy days, throw on a movie. A meeting you need to attend from home, a little time on the PlayStation can buy some peace.

But don’t peak too early. Let it be your carrot. If they’re on it from first thing in the morning, you’ve lost your bargaining chip and may have cranks on your hands, to boot.

5) It’s summer for you too

The break from the routine is fabulous and the unpredictability is chaotic. It’s a different type of stress trying to be all things to all people and feeling the guilt if you’re not as free as you’d like to be.

So, lower your expectations, don’t sweat the small stuff, go with the flow, and remember to do the things you like to do too. All work and no play makes mammy (or daddy) ready to lose her sh*t more easily. And that’s not a recipe for idyllic summer memories.

We’ve got this. Let the mayhem begin.