Staycations: Embracing the joy of slow and simple

I love travelling, especially now the kids are older. I really enjoy a family trip somewhere new, or even somewhere familiar – connecting as a family over traditions and nostalgia. Good times! But I’ll be honest, I also love staying home. Especially in the school holidays, when we hit pause on all the overscheduling of term time (and nobody has to make school lunches). Equally good times!

It can be a bit daunting though – days and days of unstructured home-time, with bored and perpetually hungry kids looking to you for entertainment and direction. Fear not – it is possible to enjoy a staycation! In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it might even be good for the whole family to slow down and embrace simple. There’s fun to be had at home, and it’s also a great place to hit refresh.

There’s beauty in simplicity

There were lots of learnings in lockdown, but one thing that has really stuck with me is a fresh appreciation for the beauty of simplicity. Kids don’t need a whole lot of expensive toys, craft supplies or outings. When we couldn’t head out to spend our money on more complex forms of entertainment, we stayed home and entertained ourselves with simple things. Like constructing an apartment building out of cardboard boxes and making popcorn for a family movie night.

School holidays are the perfect time to harness that simple beauty again and remind ourselves that making memories doesn’t need to be about spending money and going to lots of different places. There is a special joy to be found when we embrace less over more. Less is more sustainable too. And cheaper. And less stressful. Less is awesome!

Release the pressure

There’s a lot of pressure on parents in the holidays to provide kids with the most exciting time ever. There’s the pressure of comparison – all those other families having an amazing time on social media (you know, the clever ones who were quick enough to grab themselves a campervan deal!). And there’s the general pressure we put on ourselves simply because we love our kids so much and want them to have a great childhood. (And maybe a little pressure comes from quietly hoping our kids will stun the class and teacher with impressive tales of epic holiday adventures when school goes back. But let’s be honest – even if you took your kids to Nepal, chances are they would report back to the class that the highlight of the holidays was the movie they watched on the plane).

All that pressure is unnesesary and unhelpul. So don’t think you have to be a performing seal! Kids are great at entertaining themselves – and even if they aren’t at the moment, they’ll soon get better! Boredom is really good for sparking our imaginiations.

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It’s okay to say no

School holidays are a good time to reflect on the previous term and re-evaluate the family schedule. With so many options for extra-curricular activities, it’s really tempting to overschedule our kids’ (and thus our own!) lives. And it’s tempting because there are loads of really great opportunities out there, experiences our kids could really benefit from. However, just because they’re good, doesn’t mean we have to do them. In fact, taking on too many ‘great opportunities’ can end up having a detrimental effect on family life and our kids can end up exhausted. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time reflecting on our commitments. It’s okay to say no. Our kids don’t have to do everything.

Saying no creates space to slow down. Slowing down aids the incredibly valuable art of noticing and does wonderful things for connection. Connection with our kids can feel a bit forced when life is busy and we’re jamming things into the day. When the pace is slower, connection can happen more organically. This was another profound learning from lockdown. As ‘normal’ life resumed, family routines picked up pace again. The contrast, post lockdown, was quite confronting for many families.

Intentionally scheduling some space for downtime can make a huge difference to family life. Time to simply sit with your child – on the beach, on the couch, on the front doorstep – without hurry or agenda, and savour the beauty of ‘being’ rather than the ‘doing’.

Memorable moments

Sure, once-in-a-lifetime adventures are pretty memorable, but we’ve had our fair share of ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ this year… let’s take hold of the everyday moments! Memories are made when we experience something new, but again – simple totally works here. It could be a bush walk you haven’t done before, a beach you’ve not fully explored, an activity you haven’t tried before – like oil painting or cooking a different cuisine. It could be a mid-winter swim or establishing some Matariki traditions in your whānau. Highly memorable and high on connection value, while still staying within the realm of simple.

Be kind to yourself

You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 has been stressful. Most of us are experiencing stress at some level. What is also challenging is the fact that our kids pick up on our emotions. Now is a good time to do something the whole family enjoys, something that gives everyone a bit of break and shifts the focus from work and domestic busyness. I know it’s easier said than done, and it takes a bit of intenionality. But it starts with being kind to yourself – patting yourself on the back for the great parenting you’ve done through unprecedented circumstances, and lowering the bar of expectation for ‘epic holidays’. Settle for ‘relaxed and simple holidays’. Pyjama days. Movie nights. Baking bread – unless you’re completely sick of that. In which case, buy some bread and make toast!


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About Author

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam is a passionate communicator, especially on topics relating to families. After 20 years in Auckland working mainly in publishing, Ellie now lives in Northland, with her husband and their three daughters, where she works from home as content editor for Parenting Place. Ellie writes with hope and humour, inspired by the goal of encouraging parents everywhere in the vital work they are doing raising our precious tamariki.

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