Saturday 19 January 2013

The Sunday Parenting Party - Holiday Anxiety

Taming the Goblin

Its time for the Sunday Parenting Party. Please link up your parenting related posts, these are anecdotes, experiences, tips and tricks or cries for help, anything specifically related to being a parent and raising kids. Please don't link up kids activity and craft posts. These can be linked to Kids Co-op
Last week we went on holiday to Centre Parcs. On day one Goblin's behaviour could only be described as seriously [insert expletive] obnoxious. Every single thing we did resulted in mega meltdowns and screaming tantrums. In fact they were tantrums the likes of which Hublet and I had not seen before - angry and ferocious. We did our best to keep our cool but by the end of the day Goblin was seriously busting our holiday buzz and we needed a plan B. 
In order to try and get through the rest of the week I did an urgent assessment of what was going on in his little head and I concluded the following:
While we don't have a routine as such, we do have a rhythm to our week - Hublet has him Monday and Tuesday and they have quiet days of fort building and lego constructing. He sees his friends on Wednesday at Nursery and on Thursday and Friday Goblin and I have playdates and go out a lot. At the weekend Hublet and I tag teaming. So its not a rigid plan but it has a pace and a recognisable beat. 
The Christmas holidays disrupted that rhythm and I think they confused Goblin with all the travelling and seeing relatives, as well as not seeing his friends. Plus he hasn't been well. He has had one cold after another since the middle of November and he is pretty run down. This means that he is abnormally tired. 
In addition we are starting Goblin at a new nursery this term and joining some clubs so the week before our holiday he had a lot of introductions to new things - and was "abandoned" at the new nursery. So he was probably feeling anxious about whether we would leave him alone. 

Understanding the cause of his anxiety and therefore his behaviour didn't really make it any easier to handle. So I set about trying to work out a strategy to minimise the fall out (as we weren't going to just pack it in and go home). I wanted to reduce the fear of the unknown so I started by making a chart of our activities for the week so he'd know what was happening each day. 
The pictures are a bit crappy but Goblin got the idea - and no he doesn't only sleep on two nights of the holiday! - those are nights when we booked a babysitter and Hublet and I went out for a meal.

As well as having a pictorial illustration of what our week would look like I tried to ensure we didn't have too many things on. I had envisaged packing loads in, but with his insta-meltdowns it seemed easiest to avoid flash points like trying to hurry him from one thing to another. So we kept it minimal with only a couple of activities a day and lots of mooching around, cycling or exploring.
I also decided to try and create a bit of rhythm to our week. So we stuck to a similar waking and bedtime routine. And did the same activity every afternoon - swimming which Goblin loves. 
I know when people are on holiday there is a temptation to let the kids stay up late and take them to restaurants and stuff. I had thought we'd do that with the boy, but Goblin was already destabilised by being in unfamiliar surroundings. It was obvious that late nights wouldn't do him any favours. So at 6.30pm every night we wound down, read a book and tuck Goblin into bed. 

The plan did work to a certain extent. The explosive tantrums lessened and he became a bit more secure. We certainly enjoyed our time away but by the end of the week he wasn't the only one ready to go home. Its something that they don't seem to mention in the parenting books - A holiday with a small person isn't really a holiday, its just parenting stress moved to somewhere different with your usual fall backs  and safety nets removed.
My top five picks from last weeks posts are
Project52 "A Challenge to stay awake" - Awesomely Awake
The ABCs of Connecting with our kids - One Perfect Day
Schedule time to play with each child in a large family - The Golden Gleam
Oh Happy Day - Kids Stuff World
I don't like reading aloud - Child Led Chaos

And now to the linky


  1. I had to giggle at your last sentence about parenting stress in a different place with the fall backs and saftey nets removed :) I was interested to read how your chart worked out. Good thinking there, glad it had a positive effect!

  2. You are so right. Even if you don't have a routine, there is a rhythm to the day that kids come to expect. It is a great word to describe it.

    1. It comes from Waldorf Steiner philosophy. They are very into rhythm. I pinched the term.

  3. Monko, you are SO RIGHT ON! Vacations are no vacation for the mom/parents. I think it just adds to your everyday stress by making you try to keep the family running smoothly in totally unfamiliar surroundings.

    I, myself, have meltdowns when Prickly Dad tries to cram too much variety into one day. We've been together for almost 10 years now and it's FINALLY starting to sink in!!

    1. I'm usually the one guilty of trying to pack too much in to our holidays. I think it's finally sinking in with me too

  4. Nice save with the visuals! Vacations always throw the little ones for a loop but many don't think about making a visual schedule for those trips, it's usually the opposite!

  5. I can so relate to this! Our first daughter often has huge meltdowns while traveling. Thankfully, they don't happen as often as when she was younger. Like we were away for almost 3 weeks last summer (she was almost 5), and she had only a few major meltdowns the entire trip where when she was younger it was several a day. It was actually quite a pleasant summer trip where I was able to relax and enjoy too. So you have vacations to look forward too. And I agree that limiting activities helps a lot. We usually do one outing a day, and then just hang out. Totally agree that swimming is the best thing to do on vacation with kids. We now always book a hotel with an indoor pool because of it.

    Thank you for featuring our article.

  6. I absolutely love that you tried to see things from Goblin's perspective rather than just react to his tantrums and you did a brilliant job at maintaining a routine despite being on holiday. I love your final comment, that being away with a little person is not a holiday at all, just parenting stress in a new location. I say that all the time to my non-parent friends and I'm sure they just think I'm a big negative Nelly! Thank you for featuring my post this week too. :)


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