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Managing stress during the summer holidays

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 19 Jul 2022

Summer break should be an opportunity for parents to recharge their batteries. For many, it’s a source of anxiety. Mark Pearce, Head of Service Development and Delivery at wellbeing charity caba, offers stress-reducing tips.

Nearly half of employees (47%) struggle to disconnect fully from work when on holiday, according to research conducted by Glassdoor, leaving workers feeling burned out even if they are able to head away. 

The summer holidays creep up on us every year, and each July it feels as though we did not see them coming. But a few weeks in, the cracks often begin to show. You may have exhausted all of your options to keep the kids entertained, the costs are mounting and the childcare choices are beginning to run low.

As parents, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool. Easy to say, but if you’re worked-up and stressed, the children will most definitely be impacted by your mood. The following tips could help you to enjoy a stress-free summer.

Go easy on yourself

It is easy to become overwhelmed when the pressure of the summer holidays gets to us. Social media can be awash with your parent friends posting pictures of their perfect summer. It is hard not to compare yourself with them, especially if you have spent the day listening to your children bicker. But remember, their posts are unlikely to reflect real life. Rather, just a split-second highlight of their day.

Be realistic with what you will be able to achieve for the rest of the holidays, especially if you are having to balance work in that time as well. Do not forget to have well-deserved ‘me time’. Even if all you have time for is a long bath with a book, ensure you have that opportunity to switch off and recharge. Your children will notice that you have relaxed and appreciate having a more tranquil and centred parent.

Turn the guilt off

You love spending time with your children, but there is no need to feel guilty for wanting downtime. After all, six to eight weeks is a long time to spend with anyone, even your own offspring, so appreciate that at times you will all want time away from each other.

For those of us who do not have the option to be away from work for the entire summer, it is easy to feel as though you are letting the children down by having to juggle parenting and work. Remember, you certainly are not the only parent in this position. Talk to other parents who are having to balance work, perhaps make a group chat where you can all air your frustrations and support each other throughout the summer. You might pick up tips from them or even be able to coordinate regular childcare.

Be smart with your time

Just because the children are off school, it does not mean that we can have a break from household chores. Clothes still need to be washed, floors need to be vacuumed. Why not try to coordinate a day or two at home each week when you can enlist the children to support you with age-appropriate chores? You could even use the time to cook together or teach the children how to make simple bakes.

Try to enforce a routine as September approaches. Not only will it be beneficial for you to ensure the days run smoothly and are structured, but it will make the transition back to school or nursery easier for the children when the summer holidays end, as well as making sure that no one is overtired.

Plan as much as possible

If you can, try to go to bed each night with a plan for the day ahead. Not having an idea of what the day will bring can often lead to unproductive time with nothing being achieved.

Keep an eye on the weather and plan around the forecast. If the weather is not set to be great, phone friends and other parents to arrange a few playdates. If the children have someone to play with, you won’t need to battle rainy-day boredom. You never know, they might just return the favour and invite your children round at a later date.

Let the children have input

Nobody wants to drag around a surly child who would rather be anywhere but the place where you have chosen to visit. By allowing your child or children to have input into the day’s activities, they will feel involved and likely more willing to accept doing something they would not necessarily have chosen, as they know their suggestions may be on the schedule for a later date. Remember, the more involved they feel in the planning process, the more willing they will be to go along with it, even if it is just choosing the evening meal.

Don’t break the bank

Adding financial pressure to the mix is not conducive to reducing stress levels. You can make memories and have fun with your children no matter what your budget is and without breaking the bank.

Do not feel like you need to engage in costly and extravagant activities each day. Spread these moments across the weeks so that you and the children have days to look forward to. Quality moments do not need to cost the earth. The best, most memorable times often happen in the home.

These precious summers with the children will be what you look back on in the future, and the times they will enjoy the most about their childhood. Making sure you are at your best during this summer will go a long way in ensuring that your children have fond memories of the time you spent together. Putting in some thought will ensure that it is an enjoyable experience for you too. Happy holidays!


caba is the charity for Chartered Accountants, supporting past and present ICAEW members, ACA students and their close families from across the globe. "We help the ICAEW community through everyday situations to exceptional life-changing circumstances."

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