A Father’s Guide To The Half-Term Problem

Half-Term Is Approaching!

Soon the peaceful sanctum of my home will be invaded by two pre-teen kids with (as yet undiagnosed) attention deficit disorders.

Of course, I enjoy spending time with my boys. Our evenings spent as a family – eating dinner and playing games – are the most cherished moments in my daily routine, but that’s exactly what we’ll be losing for this week: routine. Take away the weekday schedule from kids and all Hell breaks loose.

Over the 5 or 6 years that the boys have been in school, I’ve had more than a few cracks at solving the pervasive problem that is Half-Term. Although I’m a long way off mastering the logistical nightmare of keeping children entertained for days on end, there are a few simple tricks to making the whole thing run a little smoother.

Create Your Own Routine

Children thrive off of routines. During term time, as long as you’ve got a solid ‘Bedtime Plan’ in place, you can pretty much get them to dress and feed themselves. However, once you step into the Twilight Zone of Half-Term (let alone the truly frightening expanse of the Summer Holidays) all the rules go out of the window.

Why should they go to bed early, if they don’t have School in the morning? Why should they even get up early if there’s no where to go to?

Luckily, kids have incredibly elastic minds, so you can knock up a new morning routine in a jiffy, ensuring that they’ll make the most of their week off and that you’ll be able to ease them back into the school run again with fewer problems.

Schedule Each Day Well In Advance

Don’t let them drift into Half-Term with no plans, this will inevitably lead to hours spent in front of video games and Netflix. Get them involved the week before and plan out your time together. If you’ve got no big holiday plans, try asking them where they would like to go.

Although you might have to spend an hour or so knocking through the obligatory destinations that are simple unfeasible (the Moon, Madagascar and ‘that massive toy shop from Toy Story 2′ had to be sternly rebuffed), this can sometimes lead to some surprisingly affordable day outs that could expand your kids’ horizons.

Grab a wall chart and plan each day, so that your kids know the plan as well as you do. This year we’re looking at heading to a Skate Park, the Forest of  Bowland and the Beach (they wouldn’t listen to my criticisms that it may be too cold to swim – I’m packing a Thermos of soup).

Don’t Put Them To Work

Far be it from me to tell you how to raise your kids, but I’m a firm believer in not forcing them into working during their holidays. ‘Chores’, as they’re known in American Pop Culture, don’t teach children the value of hard work and teamwork. All they tell them is that you’re in charge and that housework is boring – two undeniable truths that bring them no joy whatsoever.

I spend around 15 hours or so a week keeping the house in a fit state. To achieve this feat, I have a variety of systems in place to ensure that all the tasks are performed at optimum efficiency. Introduce kids to this system and the whole pack of cards could come tumbling down.

By all means, if you need a hand with something, they’re there to help. Otherwise, its easier and kinder to let them enjoy themselves – they’re only young once remember!

Send Them Packing

Most working parents dread Half-Term as a logistical nightmare – a time-based conundrum that crops up twice a year to cost them a bomb in Childcare and leave them scrambling back from work every day to pick them up.

An easy solution to this problem? Just send them away. Up to a certain age, some children might not be comfortable spending time away from home – but 5 days isn’t an eternity and this can often prove to be a real chance for them to grow as people .

Although there are countless kids camps and activity weeks that you can send your kids to, I try to avoid these ‘organised fun’ institutions. I prefer to use the week as a chance to get them better acquainted with our extended family. Half-Term is a great opportunity for kids to get to know their cousins and form some close bonds that could last well into their teens.

Treat Them To Something Special

The most important thing to remember when preparing for Half Term is that this should be a special week for them. Any spare time that you can glean with your children, sans electronics devices and other such things, should be treasured. Try something new with them: go out for dinner, bake a cake, buy them a new game or ball. After this week, they should be breathlessly eager to head back to school and tell their friends about all the week they’ve enjoyed.

If you’ve done your job well then, by the time Friday evening comes around, your charges should be exhausted and looking forward to returning to the routine of school life with a new bank of happy memories in their minds.