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Managing the summer break with young children

Posted 21st July 2022

For some, the idea of a six week break stretching out ahead of them is a welcome treat in the school year. For others, it can be an anxiety-provoking or even frightening time, which can often go unnoticed in the pressure to feel excited or relieved for the break. Children thrive on structure and boundaries and a big break from school marks the loss of a routine which has governed their daily lives for the last year.  

The lead up to the end of term can be peppered with events which already begin to shift the normal routine; parties, sports day, school plays, transitions etc. Your child may also be saying goodbye to old teachers and faced with the prospect of meeting someone new. It would not be unusual to notice that they are ‘out of sorts’, which can be reflected in their behaviour. You may also be feeling this sense of unease, trying to keep up with the change of routine and wondering how the next six weeks will play out. 

It might be helpful to make a calendar together before the break starts. If your child will be staying with Grandparents or going on holiday, or even having a birthday party or a trip out over the summer, it could be used to mark those important dates. You might like to make a new structure or routine – for example, could you have a movie night at home every Friday? Could you tie in a few gentle jobs? (change bedding, water the plants, put the bins out?) Could you ask your child what they might like to see as a regular event? (baking, painting, football?). All of this will help your child (and you) to feel a sense of structure to the unknown. Involving your child in a creative way (can you draw or colour parts of the calendar?) will help them to feel a part of the process and to understand what the break will look like. 

Your child may want to spend more time with you over the summer, which can be tricky with the pressures of your own work or other commitments. Can you schedule 1-1 time into the calendar? It doesn’t need to be a big activity, but perhaps just some guaranteed time with you to play together or talk about your days. 

Could you consider using a scrap book to document your summer break with your child? Could they stick in photos? Draw pictures of their favourite events? Could they bring it back to show their new teacher? Using transitional tools like this, which can help the child to hold missing parts of their lives in mind (such as the teacher or the class) can aid the separation and prepare them for transitioning back to school in September. 

Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. Breaks can be hard for children and adults alike. There are a number of local resources which can help support you and your child when school is not open (please see below). Please also ask your school or local children’s centre for information about free events and activities for children. You are not alone. 

First Response Bristol:   0117 903 6444   www.bristol.gov.uk/firstresponse  

Home Start (support for families):  https://www.home-start.org.uk/  

Bristol Children’s Centres:  https://www.bristol.gov.uk/schools-learning-early-years/childrens-centre