School Holidays. How that term changes as you move through life - when you were a kid, it meant wild abandon and fun and laughing and running, for a parent, it can mean a cash haemorrhage and glitter all over your house.
With four lots of school holidays a year , the threat of parental breakdown is ever-present. The hours drag. The Go Diego Go! or The Wiggles theme songs, or the harmless tween girl hormone-surging sounds of One Direction, take on ominous overtones. Rain beats relentlessly against the windows. Someone whines, "I'm booooored!" You realise with a start that it was you.
For working parents, the problem's different - where to send your children. And when they're there, will they be happy? While you tap away at the keyboard or take a decidedly unhappy border collie's temperature, your thoughts are always with your kids.
Mel Smith has three children - Annabelle, 8, Brock, 6, and Toby, 4. When holiday time rolls around, Mel's thoughts turn to her finances - paying for school holiday care is her main concern.
"My kids go to OSCAR after school and so they're back to OSCAR for the school holidays," she said.
She was paying $5 an hour for each child for holiday care, but a change in circumstances means she is eligible for a subsidy. "It's still an extra. I've got to work for a day just to make enough for childcare."
There aren't quite enough school holiday programmes in Invercargill to cater for demand, she says. "It would be good if there were a couple more programmes."
An early childhood teacher with a background in primary education, she says the holidays can make it difficult for working parents, but all you need is a plan.
"You've just got to be organised."
Mel plans to take a few days off these holidays to spend some time with her kids. "I do feel like I need to take the time off," she says.
Guilt is a feeling many working parents experience, especially during the holidays, says Rhonda Hoffman, of Positive Interventionz. "It is so important to make sure you are somewhat involved in your children's school holiday plan."
Try to make sure you have one planned activity with your children if you can, she says.
"This will help decrease your feelings of guilt and will also give your child or children something to look forward to doing with you."
"If you work in town, you could also arrange for a lunch date with your children. You both have to have lunch and they will feel very special meeting you for a lunch date,' she says.
"If at all possible, take your children to work with you, even if it's just for an hour.
"This will allow your child to be part of your working day. They can see what you do and sometimes it can help children to realise that it isn't that you don't want to spend time with them, and that you're not away having a blast while they are at home or in care."
Stay-at-home parents also need to be organised to avoid any holiday dramas, she says.
"I suggest parents sit down with their children and make a ‘holiday plan'. Creating one of these will help everyone in the house have a good understanding of what is expected."
A plan is all well and good, but what can parents do when they feel like screaming?
"If you are at a level of feeling like losing it, then remember your children are probably feeling similar," she says. "I suggest stop and do something physical with the kids like kicking a ball or going for a walk. School holidays last for two weeks and there are going to be times where you and your children are going to get bored or frustrated."
When you come up with your holiday plan, create a "when I'm bored" box, she says. "Have lots of different suggestions the children have come up with in the box and when needed, pull one out. This alone can be very fun and exciting for the children."
Use family and friends as well, she says. "If you have family members or friends who have young people, organise a holiday share plan. Their children come over to your house for one of the days and play and then on another day your children go to theirs. This gives everyone a break - including the kids - and gives you a chance to do things without the children," she says.
Above all, try to have fun.
"Enjoy the time you have with your kids, because, just remember, they will never be this age again."
TOP FIVE THAT COST
1 Kidzone. Before I had children I . . . just . . . it's like people that watch Game of Thrones and people that don't. It sounds weird when you explain it but then you see it and it's AMAZING. Kidzone is the best thing in Invercargill. It is so cheap. All you have to take is your lunch but you can buy chips if you want. CHIPS!
2 Chipmunks. Hell hath no fury like a kid dragged off the bouncy castle. Grit your teeth, wear something stretchy, make sure everyone's got socks on (seriously) and just do it. Kids love it, and that is the point. You get your time when they move out of home.
3 The movies. There are plenty of good movies these holidays, as the break coincides with the US Summer Blockbuster season. How to Train your Dragon 2 (PG) has scored 92 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, Transformers: Age of Extinction in 3D (M) ummm 17 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes but Robots! Eh?! Kiwi vampire romp What We Do In The Shadows (R13), TinkerBell and the Pirate Fairy (G), Tarzan (PG) and 22 Jump Street (R13) are all on the menu this week at least.
4 Videos. Getting out a movie from the video shop can be exciting – it's cheaper than the movies, you have a better range of choice, you can make your own popcorn and nobody gets snotty if you eat hot chips. Tip – decide what you want before you go, ring and book it so it will be waiting at the counter then just swoop in and collect it. You know how it will be otherwise. Shudder.
5 Swimming. Go to the pool. If your kids are over 5, you don't even have to get in your togs. Splash Palace is more than just for splashing around – there's a wave pool, a hydroslide and there always some kind of awesome toys in the water. Best of all, this is a genuine exhauster – take them swimming early in the morning and you'll get to enjoy a peaceful afternoon. --------------------
- The Southland Times
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