If the last week has reminded us of anything, it’s that in Ireland we don’t know what to do with great weather. In normal times we would rush out to buy barbecues, inflatable paddle pools and garden furniture, for fear it will all end suddenly. Despite restrictions on movement we still are staying up later at night and generally revelling in the sunshine. Given how rare a heatwave is here, routines tend to become a little more relaxed. When you combine that with being at home all day every day for the past 10 weeks or more and the end of the primary school year (and home-schooling) in sight, you have children who are getting very excited about this rare weather and …….. a little overwrought.
Babies, toddlers and young children can really only manage the heat in bursts. The quality of their daytime naps and night-time sleep can be interrupted as they may be more sweaty and uncomfortable than usual. Bedtimes might also get pushed out a little, as long evenings outside are one of the nicest things about summer. This means that you may be at the receiving end of a few tantrums or whining. As ever, try to just take a minute before you react. Your child is over-tired and can’t fully manage his emotions yet. Explain to him what he’s feeling and encourage a break. You could offer to just sit on the couch and cuddle together for a story, or make some iced water with fun-shaped ice cubes. Small, regular breaks from the outdoors will go along way in calming your little one.
With slightly older children (6 to 11/12 year olds) there is nothing more liberating than staying up a bit later as there is ‘no school (or home-school) in the morning’. They become like Duracell bunnies – all plans and all go. Try to think and chat with them about the balance of their day. Encourage them to enjoy some down time. The best way to do this is by example. If you find yourself running from one thing to another, step back and find the time and space to relax. Maybe sit out the back garden and enjoy some ice cream and a book with your children. Let them see the value you attach to just hanging out together.
Your teenager may also benefit from a little check-in during the sunny spell. The teenage years can throw up all kinds of emotions, some of which are connected to body confidence. The sun comes and brings with it the need for less clothing. There are generally two responses to this from older children – the ‘minimal clothing/maximum exposure’ effect or the ‘hide and withdraw’ one. If body confidence isn’t an issue, just remind your teenager about sun safety and personal responsibility (bikini tops are great for the beach, not for a trip to the supermarket). If your teenager feels conscious that they are under or over weight, are particularly pale or maybe have birth marks or scars that aren’t visible under warming clothing, offer them extra assurance. Remind them how beautiful they are, how unique each body is and how they will benefit physically and mentally from the extra Vitamin D.
In the midst of minding children during the warmer weather, mind yourself. All of the above applies to us grown-ups as well!
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.