Some people are frightened of spiders, others are scared of heights. But now a new phobia has been identified: Fear Of the School Holidays.
Almost two million parents admit to this fear, revealing they haven’t planned enough family activities to fill the six-week break. Research by family activities app on Hoop.co.uk found more than half of parents say they’re guilty of leaving planning activities until the last minute, and two thirds dread the school break, suffering from what Hoop has dubbed Fear Of the School Holidays (FOSH).
A lack of time, money and inspiration are the most common reasons parents give for failing to find something different to do – which makes nearly half feel guilty, and a quarter feel like a bad parent.
The average parent of children aged under 11 hears, ‘I’m bored’, and, ‘Can I watch TV?’ more than 400 times during the summer holidays.
Research by TV channel Nick Jr. found the average child will utter their first, ‘I’m bored’, just 10 days into the summer holidays, and subsequently repeat the well-worn phrase around four times a day.
So how do parents keep kids entertained? Nick Jr. found that family days out are the number one distraction parents rely on, followed by watching TV as a family, while 48% of parents occupy their kids with home baking, and just over a third play board games together. Plus, 71% of parents take their family away on holiday, for an average of 10 days.
“Summer holidays can be daunting,” says Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts. “We imagine our children spending six dreamy weeks reading books and playing in balmy weather; but in reality, they’re equally likely to involve rows about the Playstation, horizontal rain, and hearing yourself saying, ‘Only boring people get bored’.”
But she adds: “Try to remember that six weeks isn’t actually very long, and you’ll miss them when they go back to school. Eventually.”
Here are Mumsnet’s tips for enjoying the summer break:
1. Keep up a semblance of a routine. Normal mealtimes and waking up at some point before midday usually lead to calmer moods all round, and help grown-ups feel they’re keeping some sort of grip on things.
2. Plan one or two big, exciting days out to give the kids something to focus on (but make sure you take advantage of any ‘kids go free’ offers).
3. Keep an eye out locally for free events at local parks and libraries, or subsidised holiday playschemes.
4. A good tiring bike ride, long walk to the pick-your-own farm, or a session at a swimming pool usually guarantees you a few hours of peace afterwards.
5. If you have friends in the same boat, make an informal timetable of playdates, so you all get a few mornings or afternoons off to lie down in a dark room.
6. Get a big box of crafting materials together for mid-afternoon flash points. It’s amazing how much children can be diverted by 12 kitchen roll tubes and a container of glitter.
7. Get the children involved in meal prep. Let them choose a few dishes and make them together, then have an indoor picnic with a rug on the living room floor.
8. Encourage them to learn something new – the more time-consuming the better. Knitting, hula-hooping, card games and loom bands would all work.
9. Even if you’re usually pretty strict about screens, summer holidays could be the time to relax the rules and allow them to watch all seven Harry Potter films (with an eye on guidance about age appropriateness, obviously).
10. Don’t be tempted to relax rules about cleaning up though. Make sure they tidy away the previous activity before they start on a new one.