Smart's Summer Survival Guide for Parents

For many of us here in the UK, 2020 was a tough year. Summer 2021, however, is looking a little bit different. With restrictions gradually lifting, we can look forward to things slowly but surely changing for the better. 

While this is certainly something worth celebrating, even with an ease on restrictions there may still be challenges ahead, especially for parents. Yes, there is lots to look forward to, but the fact remains that many businesses will not be reopening. Countless families are likely to be struggling financially and lots of parents will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. So how can parents cope with a second Summer of living with Covid-19?

 

Accepting the new normal 


Since things won’t be quite ‘back to normal’ just yet, it’s important to prepare for having your hands full over the summer. In this guide we’ll provide some helpful tips for parents; here’s what we’ll be covering: 

  • Putting yourself first so that you’re better equipped to handle the kids.  
  • Setting boundaries while working from home. 
  • How to balance work and family life. 
  • Budget-friendly activities to do with your family this summer. 
  • Checking in with your kids and approaching difficult conversations. 


Looking after yourself 


Your children mean the world to you and as parents, you always go out of your way to take care of them. But sometimes it can be important to put yourself first. Taking care of your own wellbeing means you’ll be better equipped to handle stress. 


For many parents, self-care is problematic because it takes time – and that’s something most parents don’t have a lot of. So, how can you fit self-care into your schedule? Well, there are some small lifestyle changes that could make a big difference to our wellbeing... 


Give yourself a break 


As much as you’re probably tired of hearing it, these really are unprecedented times – so go easy on yourself. Nobody is expected to know how to handle things under these unfamiliar circumstances. Sometimes you might feel as though things are out of control, so it could benefit you to remind yourself that there really is no way to get it right. This year has had its fair share of ups and downs and the sooner you realise you don’t need to be the perfect parent, the better.   


Eat well 


It’s easy to fall into bad eating habits, especially when you’re cooking for children. We don’t always have time to make healthy meals. But when it comes to keeping your energy up and helping fight fatigue, choosing healthier meals could help. Spending half an hour a week planning meals and making a healthier shopping list could do wonders for you. Check out 50 Healthy Dinners on a Budget if you need some inspiration. 


Getting a good night’s sleep 


Everyone knows that getting enough rest is central to our mood and how we function. Unfortunately, while some of us doze off as soon as we hit the pillow, others struggle to get a good night’s rest. Here are five tips for getting a better night's sleep: 


1. Exercise 


You don’t have to commit to a long workout, even a brisk walk will do.1


2. Cut down on caffeine 


Caffeine could stay in your system for hours so it might be best to avoid it after a certain time of day, particularly in the evening time. 


3. Read before bed 


Reading is a great way to take your mind off daily stresses and it could help tire your brain out, helping you get a better rest. 


4. Getting comfy 


Assess your sleep environment and see if there’s anything that can be improved. For instance, if too much light gets into your room, consider using a sleep mask or getting blackout curtains. If loud traffic or a bin truck wakes you up every day, then earplugs could be the solution. If your bed is uncomfortable but you don’t want to splurge on a new mattress, a mattress topper could help. 


5. Avoid screens before bed 


If you tend to watch television or scroll through social media before bed, it could be preventing you from getting the sleep you need. Try cutting out screens after a certain time. How about listening to a podcast or reading a book instead? 


Fitting mindfulness into a busy day 


There are plenty of benefits to being mindful including reducing the effects of stress, anxiety and depression. By incorporating meditation or mindfulness into your day, you can help avoid burnout while the kids are off school. 


You don’t need to spend hours every week meditating to be mindful. There are small mindfulness exercises that you can make part of your day, even when you’re busy. 


Take time to yourself if you can 


If you feel as though you never get time to yourself, try getting up 20 minutes earlier than you normally would. Or take a few minutes each evening to put headphones in and listen to your favourite music, a podcast or catch an episode of your favourite tv show. 


Talk to others when you’re stressed 


They say that a problem shared is a problem halved. If things get overwhelming, why not pick up the phone? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or a family member. You can even talk to a professional for free


Cut down on alcohol 


It seems people have been drinking more at home since the beginning of the pandemic2. Cutting down on alcohol could help improve your general wellbeing, your weight and energy. If you need advice or help with your alcohol consumption, there are plenty of resources available to you.  


Exercise 


Regular exercise plays a crucial role in our physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re finding it hard to make time to exercise, check out a YouTube workout or try bringing the kids along on a walk with you. If you’re a morning person, it might suit you to start your day earlier to fit in some cardio before the kids are up. 


Cut down on screens 


As a result of Covid, you may have become reliant on screens for entertainment. TV and social media can be a means of escape. If you’re working from home, you may even be spending most of your day staring at your work computer, only to switch to your phone or television once you’ve signed off for the evening. The problem is, too much screen time can have a negative effect on your body. Limit your screen time to set times during the day to help combat this problem. 

 

Taking care of the kids 


It can be hard to balance family life with everything else you have going on; work, chores, errands. While you work hard to support your children, it’s easy to lose touch with what’s going on in your children’s lives. Checking in with your kids is important but it’s something we might not think to do, especially when we're feeling overwhelmed. 

 

Checking in with your kids 


The world is a very different place now than when you grew up. Children can be vulnerable, especially with the introduction of social media and the internet. Lots of parents struggle with how to talk to your kids about sensitive subjects


It’s important to check in with your children and see how they’re doing. When you’re a busy parent, it’s easy to miss when your child’s behaviour is a little off due to something they’re struggling with. Kids don’t always want to open-up about their personal lives, so don’t push their boundaries. Do however let them know that they can talk to you and that you’re there to help them with any problems they might be facing.  


Engaging our children in an open dialogue around sensitive subjects can be beneficial in a number of ways. It can help them feel comfortable coming to you with a problem and it can give you some peace of mind. 

 

Be wary of online bullying 


With little else going on these days, children may be spending more time on the internet and unfortunately, this can make them vulnerable. Online bullying is a very real problem. The Department for Education provides lots of information on how to spot and help prevent cyberbullying

 

Help your child make healthier choices 


With takeaways on every corner and a smart phone in every hand, it’s becoming more challenging to make sure that your child is making healthy choices. It could be a good idea to have a conversation about self-care. 

Some of the things you could try to monitor might include: 

  • Screen time 
  • Exercise 
  • Eating habits 
  • Sleep 
  • Hygiene 
  • Fresh air/getting out of the house 

 

Activities to do with your kids outdoors  

 

We understand that even with things reopening, you may prefer to stick to outdoor activities for the time being. So, what are some fun outdoor activities you can do right here in the UK? 

 

Treasure or scavenger hunt  


Go to a nearby park and plant clues for your children to find. Have some small prizes at the end (sweets or some items from your local pound shop). 

 

Outdoor arts and crafts 


The best thing about doing arts and crafts in your garden is that you don’t have to worry when paint is spilled on the ground. Just pop some newspapers down and it’s easy to clean up. You could try out any of these fun outdoor arts and crafts ideas.  

 

Tie-dye old clothes 


Give old bedsheets, socks or t-shirts a colourful twist. Tie-dye is especially fun for older children or teens. Here are some tips on how to tie dye with kids. 

 

Obstacle course 


You can set up an obstacle course for your family in your garden or in a local park. Think DIY school sports day (egg and spoon, hopscotch, sack races). 

 

Nature-walk 


Why not explore nature with your kids? You could make a game of it by checking out the wildlife and plant life in your area and trying to find certain trees, birds and flowers. Screenshot pictures on your phone, pick up the Photographic Guide to British Wildlife, or keep this guide to identifying British wildflowers handy. This also gives you an opportunity to make it an educational experience for your kids and who knows, you might even learn something interesting too! 

 

Swimming 


There's nothing better than jumping into cool water and splashing around on a hot day. You might be surprised at how many great outdoor swimming spots we have here in Britain. Just be sure to take the utmost care when swimming and follow any safety precautions. 

 

Beach day 


Here’s a list of Britain’s best beaches. Find your nearest beach or book into a B&B with the family for a cheap and cheerful UK beach holiday. 

 

Historical tour of Britain 


The UK is full of interesting historical sites. Pick up a sight-seeing book or have Google at the ready to give your kids an educational experience when visiting these iconic landmarks and historical sites

 

Crazy golf or pitch and putt 


Is there a crazy golf or a pitch and putt near you? This is a great way to pass a few hours with the family. 

 

Activities to do with your kids indoors  


Since UK weather isn’t always reliable, here are some indoor activities to do with your kids. We’ll look at activities based on restrictions, from socially distanced activities with friends to Zoom play dates and garden parties. 

 

Baking 


Kids love baking because it’s messy and they get to enjoy some yummy treats. Try something easy like Rice Krispy treats or if you would rather make cookies, cake or brownies, there are tonnes of recipes online - you can even grab a packet mix from the shop. 

 

Plant something 


Plant fruit, veg or another type of plant in pots and leave them on a windowsill. Simply plant it and watch it grow! 

 

Indoor treasure hunt 


Treasure hunts aren’t just for outside! Hide clues around the house and have an indoor treasure hunt with your kids.  

 

Disco dance party 


Make a playlist, let the kids pick some of their favourite happy tunes. Put them on loud and have a dance. It’s even more fun if you make it a ‘dress-up’ disco. 

 

Pound shop haul 


Visit your local pound shop with the kids and let them pick something out. You might find some fun dress up items like face paints, or arts and crafts supplies. 

 

Charity shop haul 


You might be surprised at how many fun things you can find in charity shops. Collect cups and plates to paint, find clothes for pirate and princess costumes. Collect books to make collages. If you’re lucky you might even find some board games or toys. 

 

Recycled robots 


Did you know that recycling items (milk cartons, plastic bottles, cereal boxes) can be perfect for making robots? So, grab some Sellotape and get to work. You can even paint them afterwards. 

 

Kid's choice day  


Let your kids make all the decisions for a day. Spaghetti hoops for breakfast? Playing hide and seek? Eating ice cream? Watching their favourite movie? Kids in charge means they get to feel like they’re in control with the added benefit of avoiding tantrums. 

 

Barbecue 


A barbecue can be a fun way to make the most of a warm day. If you don’t have one at home, you could pick up a disposable barbecue and use it in your garden, a local park or the beach. 

 

Picnic

 

A picnic doesn’t have to be elaborate. A few sandwiches, some crisps and fruit are enough to have an enjoyable picnic with your kids. Just don’t forget to bring a blanket. 

 

Tips for working from home with kids 


Working from home when you have children brings its own unique set of challenges. When you don’t have things under control, they could come bursting in, right in the middle of a Zoom call. You might find it hard keeping on top of your work while being bothered for children seeking snacks and attention. At times it could feel as though you’re at home trying to work as opposed to working from home.  


Here are some tips on how to be prepared for anything, setting boundaries and keeping the kids occupied while you work. 

 

Be realistic 


Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to get to sit and work uninterrupted in silence during your normal work hours. Be realistic about having to manage disruptions. 

 

Talk to your employer 


Your employer may help you by offering greater flexibility with your working hours if you have children. If you’re struggling or need to make a change to your schedule, have a chat with your employer and try to work something out. 

 

Talk to your children 


If your kids are old enough, explain that there are certain times when you can give them your full attention. Try to make it as clear as possible that you can’t always be there straight away but if they’re patient, you can help them with whatever they need when you have a few minutes free.  


For younger children, you could try a reward system. When they don’t disturb you for ‘silly’ things, they get a treat when you’re free. Since younger children may understand non-verbal communication better, you could make a big green sign to hang on your door when they can interrupt you, and when there’s a red sign on the door, that means they’ll have to wait a little bit longer. 

 

Set boundaries 


Decide on a workspace (kitchen table, desk, office) and let your children know that you shouldn’t be disturbed when you’re at this space unless they really need you.  

 

Set schedules but be flexible 


We all need structure, especially in our workday. Try to set schedules but remember to be flexible. Things aren’t always going to go as planned when children are involved but that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for a solid daily routine.  

 

Get up before your kids 


If you can get up before your kids, you can take some time to yourself, whether that means relaxing, exercising or checking some items off your to-do list. 

 

Have snacks and breakfast ready to go 


The sooner you can whip something up to feed hungry kids, the more time you save. By preparing some snacks and getting an easy breakfast ready as soon as you’re up, you might find you can save time during the day.  

 

Get better at identifying priority work  


If you work from home with kids, chances are, you will be distracted; your kids can come in at any time and interrupt you. So, it’s important that you're focusing on the right work, at the right time. Do your kids watch a certain cartoon around the same time each day? Is there a time of day when they’re more likely to nap? Take advantage of your kid’s routines and make it work for you. Get your most important work done during times when your children are distracted 

 

Keep the kids entertained 


Making sure the kids have something stimulating to keep them occupied is crucial. It might be worth your while making a small investment here whether that means paying for a Netflix subscription, buying them a toy, or purchasing something else that will keep them out of your hair. 


Try to rotate toys and activities that the kids haven’t seen or used in a few days or weeks. Children may watch the same movie a thousand times on repeat but when it comes to play time, they can get bored easily. Here's a list of activities that your kids can do without you: 

 

Build a blanket fort 


Who remembers building forts from pillows and bed sheets as kids? A fort is a great way to keep the kids occupied while you’re busy. If you make sure the television is visible from the fort, you can put on a movie to make it even more fun. 

 

Educational YouTube  


Create a playlist of educational YouTube videos to keep your kids occupied. 

 

Home cinema 


A “home-cinema” could be the perfect thing to keep the kids occupied on rainy summer day. There are lots of budget-friendly projectors available online, it could be a worthwhile investment for the summer months.  

 

Karaoke 


YouTube is full of ‘Karaoke’ versions of your kids' favourite songs. Make a playlist of these songs and let your kids sing along with their favourite pop tunes. 

 

Zoom playdate 


Do you have friends in a similar situation as you? Why not arrange a Zoom playdate for their kids and yours? You can suggest some games for them to play like I Spy, Simon Says, or bingo. 

 

Zoom Charades 


Have your children play charades with their friends over Zoom. For younger kids you can change it up and get them to play “What animal am I?” or “What action am I doing?” to make a little easier. 

 

Garden safari 


You can pick up some small toy animals or dinosaurs and hide them. Send the kids on a ‘safari’ with a list of animals to find. You can even ask them to keep a record of each animal they find by drawing a picture of the animal. This activity can be done inside the house too. 

 

Making the most of summer 


The most important thing you can take away from this guide is to remember to go easy on yourself. Families all over the world have been through a lot over the past year, so you should try to make the most of the summer months knowing that positive changes lie ahead.  


If you’re worried about keeping track of activities, check out our Tips for Coping with Lockdown. You’ll even find a handy printable Weekly Planner available to download. 



 

1. 8 Secrets to a Good Nights Sleep, Harvard Health 

2. The Guardian, Problem drinking soars under UK lockdown, say addiction experts