Our children are 7 and 9. During holidays, they want to sleep till late morning, or even if they wake up, don’t want to get out of bed or bathe, brush, etc. I feel it is okay for the first few days, but there has to be some discipline. My husband feels they should be allowed to do what they want as they are involved in activities throughout the school year. While I agree with this, I also saw last year that this only led to unhygienic behaviour (not giving clothes for a wash, letting the bath water go waste, mouth odour, etc.)—and they did nothing enjoyable other than lazing around. Is it okay to spend most days like this on a two-month holiday? I have no idea what other parents do. I work part time and am home only at 2pm—they are with a maid till then or their grandmother comes over.
No doubt, one of the high points of a vacation is not waking up to an alarm clock, and this must be a welcome break for children as well as parents—you don’t have to watch the clock, get them to go through their morning ablutions, breakfast, lunch boxes; you all get a break from the previous night’s tension of uniforms and shoes in place, homework done, projects to be taken along, and all of the compulsions of term-time. But you’re right that two months spent lazing till noon in bed is not a particularly good idea. And it makes that much harder to get back to the school routine.
Since you are not there to see that they get out of bed at a reasonable time, you will have to enter into some kind of “negotiation” with them well before the holidays begin. For instance, you could discuss it with them and agree that the first week can be spent in this “do nothing” mode. If you have the nerves for it, let them skip baths, not give their clothes for a wash, and all of those things that they will do (you may find that after some days of this, the “charm” of it will wear off for them). You could grade it so that the next week they promise to get up an hour earlier than they did the previous week, and so on.
Meanwhile, you will have to find interesting outings and projects for them to do with you or their grandmom or sitter. These could even be the simple “let’s go out and collect tree seeds” activity—there are plenty around in different shapes and sizes and children can be switched on to segregating and bottling them for fun or later planting them somewhere. The next level could be more complex activity involving classes, camps, etc. There are many activities that you could come up with along with your children. Include some small act of volunteering (even if it is just getting them to put aside toys and books or clothes that they have outgrown, to be given away) on some of the days. Do also occasionally include some household task you can do with them—clearing out the loft or cleaning the inside of the car, or something that you can turn into fun and tell them you too have been putting off but can now do as you have their company.
The key seems, however, to not mop up and lock all their time in holiday activities—let them retain their sense of vacation freedom. Do also find out from other parents what tricks and strategies they use to get children to use their vacations in a relaxed but more meaningfully enjoyable way.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
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