School Holidays: Make Time For Space

Parents are reminded time and again that children need space away from structured activities to recharge and rediscover themselves. Follow these steps to make it happen.

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Schedule a few activities, if your child is enthusiastic about them.

Here’s how to gauge your child’s enthusiasm, as recommended by Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist and author of The Pressured Child: “Are you hearing laughter? Is the child giggling when you drop them off or pick them up? Or are they solemn and dragging their feet?” Your child’s visual cues can help you decide if an enrichment activity is worth pursuing, especially during the school holidays.

Respect your free time.

If you regard free time as “unproductive” or “wasted” time, your child is likely to mirror your attitude as he or she grows up. Conversely, if you are protective over time set aside for relaxation and enjoyment, your child will be more inclined to adopt a balanced approach towards life and work in the future. One way to solidify your commitment to personal time is to create restful spaces in your home, such as dedicated corners for reading, play, and art. You can also model behaviours such as putting aside work and mobile devices during family time, and scheduling bonding activities such as a family movie night.  

Remember: Boredom is healthy for your child.

Parents often feel the need to rescue their children from boredom, but doing so can be counter-productive, says clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham. “If we keep them busy with lessons and structured activity, or they ‘fill’ their time with screen entertainment, they never learn to respond to the stirrings of their own hearts, which might lead them to build a fort in the backyard, make a monster from clay, write a short story or song, organise the neighbourhood kids into making a movie, or simply study the bugs on the sidewalk—as Einstein did for hours,” she explains.

Above all, the school holidays are a time for bonding.

“Parents need to relax. Slow down. Activities are fine, but don’t go over the top. Research says that what children need most are relationships, not activities,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, child psychiatrist and author of The Overscheduled Child, Avoiding The Hyper-Parenting Trap. “Focus on building meaningful relationships with your children, not becoming their chauffeur.” Stress-free outings such as brunches and playdates provide opportunity for quality conversations with your children and their friends. Set aside time to reconnect with extended family members as well, to keep family ties intact.