School’s out for summer, and my kids have the jitters.
Why? Being adopted, they thrive on routine and structure. With no school their anxiety levels rise, and old habits reappear: tears, tantrums, picking fights, inability to sit still, chewing – fingers, hair, clothes and if things get really bad, eczema.
And now that we are in France, this summer we have eight weeks of school holidays to cope with!
We’ve dealt with quite a few school summer holidays, and now have a few tactics that help keep the kids meltdowns to a minimum, and keep us relatively sane.
We put in place our holiday routine. It’s simple stuff like different cereals at breakfast, being able to watch a bit of TV after breakfast. We stick steadfastly to meal-times, and put in place holiday bedtimes that are a little later than normal.
My friends with birth children think I am bonkers, but I have our days planned out in advance of the holiday. By May, our summer play-schemes are secured, and our free days are booked up with trips to see friends or excursions. This does mean we can’t make last-minute invites for picnics in the park. But having a plan works for us.
- Colour-coded calendar
In the early days this was essential. I’d buy coloured sticky dots and mark up the days of the summer holiday. Each activity had a colour: play-scheme, staying at home day, excursion day, a Daddy’s at home day and weekends had their own colour too. For my kids the summer holidays seemed endless, this helped break down the days into manageable chunks helping to minimise anxiety.
I’m a big fan of play schemes. In the early days I’d beat myself up over sending my kids to these. But my social worker encouraged me, “Your kids are really active, they need to be occupied.” Of course, she was right. With anxiety levels running sky-high, they need to be in place where their day is highly structured and routine – just like school! I still use play schemes. There are plenty of providers. Summer Fun for Kids lists a wide choice across the UK. Now we are in France, I am making the most of the excellent state provided schemes.
- And when the kids are in bed
Crack open the wine!
Then there’s going away on holiday
If being off school for six weeks, now eight weeks, isn’t bad enough, even worse is to leave home, go to another house, apartment or hotel, possibly in another country, with different food, tastes, smells and be expected to enjoy it, have fun and be happy – whoopee we’re on holiday.
Yup going away on holiday is a traumatic experience for our kids.
For some adopted children packing suitcases is a reminder of moving to another home along with the uncertainty of not returning, and the fear of losing every thing they know.
To deal with this, we need our own strategic coping plan otherwise, well let’s not go there.
Our holiday coping plan
The kids can take one of their favourite cuddly toys away – of packable and portable dimensions. If Super Girl had her way we’d have to bring a truck load of cuddlies. And just to be fair each toy gets a turn at going on holiday. And of course plenty of books and DVDs accompany us on our trip.
- Our family book
Before our kids came to live with us we had to make a family photo book to show our soon-to-be adopted children their new family, new house, bedroom, toys and garden etc. This book has become an essential holiday staple making sure we don’t forget our house (the one back in England), and we know where we are going back to (eventually).
- Sleep count down
This helped a lot on the early days, just a simple calendar so we can count down the number of sleeps until we get home back to security, routine and comfort.
- Where are we sleeping?
After we book our holiday we always show the kids where we are going, how we are getting there – plane, train or the holiday car. They love looking at the accommodation deciding which bed will be theirs. I guess this helps reduce their anxiety levels and gives them as sense of familiarity before arrival.
- Fear of flying
One of our first trips was to Northern Ireland to visit family. For this we had to fly. The kids had never flown before and this caused all sorts of anxieties, in particular would the plane fall out of the sky. King of the Mountains took them to London City Airport to watch planes take off and land, assuring the kids they’d be OK. So far so good.
- Types of holiday
We’ve figured out certain holidays work really well for us:
- Skiing – perfect holiday for our kids, routine combined with full on activity, and its the same every day! OK not great for summer and south America is far to expensive!
- Camping – this worked really well, the kids could run off and explore, make friends with other kids, just return to be fed and watered before finally crashing into their sleeping bags completely exhausted. Result!
- Having our own apartment / house – we have our own space, we can stick to our own routine, with our own food – this works well for us. Even if we are with relatives, it’s just better that we have our own place and space. Trust me, it just is. This year is our first Airbnb holiday – let’s see how that works out.
We’ve been through a few school summer holidays and each year they have got easier to deal with. The kids know what to expect and I am better at managing their anxiety. But hey we still suffer from the odd blip, outburst or tantrum, well if we didn’t wouldn’t life be a bore!
How do you cope with the summer holidays – let me know, maybe you have a few tips you can share!
Photo credit Michelle Milla courtesy of Flickr
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