Once again we are faced with the joy and dread of school holidays. I’m speaking personally when I say I’m celebrating the fact that I don’t have to have school lunch boxes ready, have uniforms washed and be constantly encouraging my kids to keep moving.
But the dread might not be what you think. I actually don’t mind spending time with my kids and I’m prepared for the sibling rivalry that will inevitably ensue. The anxiety I have at holiday time is around providing activities for my kids to enjoy and ultimately draw them away from the addictive screens.
When you take school out of the equation, the day is extremely long. A lazy morning is always nice, but by the time we get up and into the swing of the day it can often already be hours of opportunity that my kids have had to play on their device. When we look at the guidelines for screen time for kids… well, let’s just say I’m failing. I know I should be stricter and create tighter boundaries but there’s a few reasons why that’s tricky.
Firstly, I am on my device regularly. I wish I could say I’m watching YouTube clips of cats doing fancy tricks, but I’m often working or communicating with friends and family – both things are important. Secondly, I do need to get work done on the holidays. I actually see the holidays as an opportunity where I have stretches of glorious time that I can work on projects that get pushed to the bottom of the pile during the term.
I can hear you saying ‘that doesn’t mean your kids can spend hours looking at their iPad’ – and you’re right. But I don’t want to be constantly fighting and nagging, nor do I want my kids to miss out on some fun experiences that their peers are having. So here’s my thoughts on a happy medium.
1. Constantly talk to your kids about addiction and how to recognise it. If they can’t think of anything else to do and they don’t want to do anything else… that’s a problem. Socialising and sunshine is incredibly important… both things they’ll miss out on if we stay home, inside looking at a screen. I will regularly say ‘time to switch’, which means they need to find something else to do.
2. Plan an outing EVERY DAY. Like I said, the day is long when you don’t have 6 hours of school. Whether it’s a bike ride or a walk, leaving the house breaks the addictive behaviour of the screen.
3. Friends are fun… I often have the community here (so it seems!) but while my kids have friends over and I hear giggles and screams I am reassured they are kids being kids (even if that involved creating a trampoline out of cushions in our lounge room and I have nowhere to sit). As my kids get older I also like to know who their friends are and keep in the loop of what’s happening. Opening your doors is a good way for this to happen.
4. Be prepared to join in. I’m the first to admit that kicking a ball in the back yard is not my thing, but I do it (within my limits… ‘I have twenty minutes until I have to start dinner’). Doing this makes me realise I need to follow my own advice and tear myself away from my laptop. Modelling is important!
Importantly, be kind to yourself. If you work full time and are not even home – that’s ok! Find pockets of time when you can and make the most of what you have. It’s a constant battle with kids, but I’m doing my best and I have no doubt that you are too.