The calendar was clearly marked in eager anticipation for the start of the summer holidays. Your children had been exhausted at the end of the long term and you were counting down the days for what seemed like weeks to finally stop the normal routine, slow down, take a breath and relax. You were so looking forward to the long, hazy summer days laid out before you. This was going to be quality time for you and your family to be together and build special memories whilst enriching these most important relationships.

Fast forward a few weeks and you feel rather dismayed with the way the holidays have panned out so far. Yes, your days have been peppered with some exquisite and lovely moments dotted across the weeks. And as you glance through the photo album on your I-phone, happy memories smile back at you and bring a warm glow to your heart. However, truth be told, these summer holidays haven’t really lived up to your expectations by a long shot. You feel stretched financially, emotionally and physically as you strive to keep your ship sailing with all crew intact and on board for the last few weeks.

5 things you wish you’d remembered before the holidays began 

1. The summer break has significant potential to clean out your bank account good and proper. As a parent, you might feel tremendous responsibility to keep everyone amused and occupied throughout the break. As a consequence, it can seem frustratingly effortless to spend your hard earned cash, whilst simultaneously questioning where all the money has gone. Ice-creams, coffee shops; free days out which somehow never seem quite so free after all seem to all feature quite highly on the list. 

2. Journeys  are often extremely stressful but due to no. 1, are usually quite necessary for sanity and therefore impossible to avoid. Fights, tantrums, confined spaces, stuffy air, boredom, need for constant snacks, endless demands whilst you try to drive the car are all things that spring to mind. You are surprised that you actually ever leave the house really when you fully contemplate the recent escapades experienced en route to places.

3.Tablets, i-Phones, and all electronic devices are the thorn in your side. On the one hand they might be a saviour, offering valuable distraction. However, they also might quite possibly drive you insane as you attempt to set limits on their usage and your children push against them.

4. No-one wants to go to bed because of the light evenings and days can be exceptionally long. If you want to have a bit of adult time, then you may well be staying up pretty late to achieve this. So what if you have been up since 6.30am!

5. Everyone in the family has their own opinion about ‘what to do today’. One person’s bliss is another’s nightmare. Whining, protests and declarations of unfairness are part of the daily conversation. You find yourself constantly biting your tongue to try and remain the controlled and enthusiastic adult. You feel far from it and often find yourself unintentionally joining in the whole debacle.

5 ways to stay sane and to enjoy the holidays

1. Lower your expectations a few notches. Then lower some more. Holidays can be tremendous fun but also have the potential for some stress. Try to accept this. Notice the times that have gone well. Don’t dwell on the times that have been more challenging.

2. Take time out for yourself as regularly as possible, even if for a very brief period. A bit of self-care or pleasure or relaxation or reflection can improve your coping ability significantly. You can return to the family more refreshed, tolerant and good humoured.

3. Try to see the funny side where you can. Humour can lighten the mood and smooth over the daily grinds and grumbles that will be inevitable.

4. Give up trying to please everyone. It is impossible.

5. Reflect on this holiday and what has worked personally for your family. Next year, you will have a brand new opportunity to have another go and do it all again armed with the knowledge and experience gained from this summer. See it all as a work in progress.

Harriet Frew is a therapist on the welldoing directory.