Now that the school summer break is in full swing, how’s it going? Are you tired and fed up yet? I’m sure a lot of parents on social media saw the meme’s flying around at the end of term showing teachers jumping for joy, and parents already counting the days till their children return to school in the autumn. As much as we love them, caring for our children over the summer can often be emotionally exhausting. Many of us are left daunted by how we can enjoy the break and hold onto our last frazzled nerve at the same time.
A couple of summers ago beneath my fake, ‘strong black mother’ cape, I secretly dreaded the holidays and buried my shame around not really understanding how to bond or connect with my child. To avoid these feelings, my default was always to lean on the summer clubs so I wouldn’t be emotionally overwhelmed, or disrupted by the changes to my term time routine. Then last year, it hit me how fast my daughter Zuri was growing up. I felt ashamed and guilty about not enjoying the break, so I decided to plan a more strategic approach last year and use the space to love bomb her with cultural events and activities to make memories, focus on our relationship, and build our racial esteem as a family. This compassionate space was so powerful, that Zuri cried a lot when it was time to go back to school. I also missed her terribly which had never happened before.
Some of us may find this level of parental intimacy uncomfortable, because we’re not use to engaging with our children in this way. Our work responsibilities may create limited time, or maybe you were raised in an environment where parental play was not a priority so this feels awkward. If this is your story then it’s important to really be gentle with yourself. It might feel hard at first, but little and often works, and this is also a powerful opportunity to upgrade your pathology, and begin building a deeper legacy of connection with your child. Today, I am excited to serve you by sharing the tools and ideas we now use every year to slay our summer.
Create the space to build closeness.
In order to be more present for our families, scheduling space to have fun and hang out is crucial. This will not only be used to spend more quality time with family, but also to give yourself permission to rest and be more emotionally available during the activities. Book and schedule whatever time you can get off work (even if it’s only a few days) and reschedule anything in the family diary where possible, that doesn’t support this commitment.
Use these bullet points to build your family bucket list.
I love this part of the process because everyone gets to be involved in building the program of fun activities. Set a time and call a family meeting to brainstorm the following……
- Write a list of how each of you wants to feel about the holidays.
- Ask each family member to contribute activities that are connected to how they want to feel. (this tool helps to build a child’s emotional intelligence, as they not only learn how to define their feelings, but also how to articulate what actions will meet those needs.)
- Research local events, music festivals, and museums etc, for any activities to explore. Include some same gender specific activities also to nurture the male/feminine energy.
- Choose some cultural s/hero’s you can research and learn about together.
- Have a good list mix of scheduled events and chilled home activities, this way no one gets too overwhelmed with all the organisation and running around.
- Plan how and when you will spread the events across each week.
- Set some gentle boundaries around daily screen time, so you can all be engaged and committed to the activities.
Capture the summer experience in a creative way.
With most of us posting and storing our memories on social media these days, a hard copy family diary or scrapbook is a refreshing way to record our feelings, joys, challenges and events with good old fashioned paper and pen. A trip to the local pound/dollar store will provide plenty of scrapbook crafts to bring the joyous family quotes, pictures and stories to life. You can still post your fun on social media, but it’s always wonderful to read the diary entries at a later date and relive the warm fuzzy feelings that accompanied them.
Teaching life skills, feeds empowerment.
Teaching is so much more powerful than rescuing, but sometimes our busyness keeps us caught up in checking off our lists, instead of empowering our children with what and how things needs to be done. Cooking a simple meal, growing something, or sharing some easy financial literacy, are simple suggestions to get you started. As your child practices and perfects her new skill, you save valuable time as she’s now empowered to complete it independently. As a natural consequence of sharing this energy, The relationship will build between you as your self esteem and confidence grows independently. As a side note, it’s also important to say that this is not only about practical tasks, but also a chance to review and teach the family values. I have an earlier post on this with a free ebook, which will help you define and implement them as a family. www.juneallen.net/values
Build racial esteem with cultural education.
The summer break is now one of our favourite times of year to work as a team, (hopefully with some sunshine) to explore, educate and celebrate our identity. What could be more irresistible to our black children than having a cultural learning experience within the community with engaged parents who adore spending time with them. In this month already, my daughter and I have attended our annual African storytelling festival which honoured the late Jamaican poet, Louise Bennett. We’ll be highlighting Marcus Garvey’s birthday on 17th August and also attend the annual steel band competition on 27th August at the Notting Hill Carnival. The African presence is not always taught appropriately (if at all) in ‘mainstream’ European dominated education. However, our cultural S/hero’s continue to provide a rich hue of flavor and black brilliance around the globe so we must continue to absorb and re-tell their stories as part of our legacy.
I know this piece has focused specifically on the summer holidays, but including more time for family to play during term time (even if its a hour at the weekend) is a great way to nurture and maintain your family self care. If your summer break has been a disaster up to this point, I hope this piece has provided some value to give yourself permission to restart and reclaim the joy in your family space! When we make the time to prioritise and implement these tools, our children will not only experience our love for them, but also how much we actually like them and adore being in their. I’d love to know you spent yours in the comments below.
Have fun,till next time.