Time for a break

Here they are … the long awaited summer holidays. A time to rest, replenish and revive our minds, bodies and souls.

Everyone I talk to, adult or child alike, say that this has been a fast and very busy year. Many are saying it has been an unprecedented year in terms of demands on time, busyness and stress. In the past, it was reasonably common for adults to say that time speeds up, the older they get. But children talking about time flying, feelings of exhaustion and stress…well that’s pretty new and it’s on the rise.

So it is increasingly important that we really think about ways to help our children unwind and ‘reset’ over the holidays. In a digitally driven world this can be very, very difficult. However in the interests of our children’s mental and physical health, we must carefully consider and monitor our children’s use of screen based activities.

Messy rooms and dodgy hygiene, pale in comparison to the stress parents feel when trying to foster positive and healthy use of screen based activities. Many parents talk of their children acting like addicts when it comes time to do things that are not screen based. Unlike other addictions (eg alcohol and drugs) in which you’d implement a zero tolerance policy for your children, screen based activity and connectivity is part of daily life. So our children need to learn how to manage their use of technology in a way that is not detrimental to their health.

Here are a few ideas to help you think about and talk to your child about their use of screens over the holidays:

  • Talk to other parents about how they manage screen time. Almost every parent is making a conscious effort to manage screen time. There is definitely strength in numbers…if you’re able to say “I know John Smith also has to charge his phone downstairs,” it significantly helps your case!
  • Plan screen free activities and leave devices at home. This allows everyone to enjoy the activity and also have the ‘downtime’ before and after as you walk, ride, drive home.
  • Encourage and help your children to get together face to face.
  • Explore active travel options with your child…routes to ride or walk to a friend’s house, bus and train timetables, be willing to drive them places.
  • Provide some structure to the day that includes non-digital time. Helping out around the house, doing something outside of the house and physical activity are good things to include as part of every day.
  • Encourage children to do something (offline) everyday that they’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be big, expensive or particularly exciting. It could be as simple as walking home a different way or having something different for breakfast. This helps maintain imagination, creativity and reduce rigid behaviours
  • Turn off all devices during dinner time, including radio, TV, Ipads and phones. Turn off your phones or put them far enough away that you can’t hear the sound of messages and alerts.
  • Embrace the weather. Do not hide in air conditioning. Find a pool, set up a slip n slide, put the sprinkler under the trampoline, drink lots of water, but make sure you get outside. A little sweat never hurt anyone, so long as you stay hydrated and are sun smart.
  • Do not use screen based activities as ‘down time.’ Instead encourage your child to read, sit quietly and chat, have a sleep or just do nothing.

If our children (and adults) are connected online all holidays, they will not start the new year rested. They will arrive back at school in a heightened state of alertness, tired and anxious and this is not conducive to learning or to good physical and mental health.

Not sure what to plan or where to go? Try my Summer School Holiday Program for 5 to 12 year olds. Held at an outdoor location in Brisbane. Click here for more information.

Written by Madeline Avci. Mum of 3 active boys. Occupational Therapist. Owner of Jump Up for Kids. Lover of outdoor play for kids and sharing practical tips with families.

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