We’ve all been there. You’re supposed to be taking the kids to somewhere you can all have fun, where they can get plenty of freedom to run around and make friends; where you can engage in festival fun en famille; where you might even get some time to yourself. And yet so often festivals end up feeling fraught. Our children get overtired and hysterical and the more we give them, the more unreasonable they become.
It doesn’t make sense that they should be so upset when we’ve moved heaven and earth (or at least the entire contents of the house) to give them a lovely experience. So what is really going on and what do our children want us to know about their core needs when festivalling?
We need connection! Sometimes in the busyness, the packing and the non-stop activity, the connection we usually offer to our children gets interrupted. Try offering Special Time (one on one focused attention, where you set a timer, say ‘I’ll play whtever you want’ and delight in them without distraction) when you arrive after a long journey, rather than rushing to set up the tent.
Our peers are not a reliable source of connection! Often when our kids are off playing with new friends for hours, we assume they are having fun and receiving connection. The kind of connection that lets the emotional part of your kid’s brain know they are safe and cared for and that someone in the world gets them, needs regular attention from an adult. Try checking in periodically with the focus on play and delight. If your child resists your presence it’s actually a signal they are losing connection and need you to try harder! This may be a good time to insist they take some downtime or come for a connection pit stop. A few minutes of wrestling, cuddles or listening to them will set them back on track to go out for more playing with friends.
We still need limits! It can be tempting to let more things go than usual at a festival, but our children need limits as something to come up against so they can offload the stress and tension that has accumulated in this overstimulating and unpredictable environment. When they can protest or cry about a limit we have enforced, we are actually doing them a favour by helping them let off some steam. You’ll notice that your child can be their sweet, easy going, co-operative selves again when you have Staylistened to an upset for as long as they need to be upset for.
Anticipate the Spoiled Outing Syndrome! When we are more available for our children, more relaxed and under less pressure to do work or chores, the extra attention can be felt by your child’s nervous system. You can start to expect that when you have been playing and doing fun stuff with a kid all day, they will feel closer to you. And when that happens they’ll want to dump out all the tension they’ve been carrying about for some time and haven’t had a chance to unload yet. Embrace the irrational meltdowns that come out of nowhere. Your children are using the soothing balm of your attention to catch up with themselves, emotionally. This is therapeutic and let’s them be more relaxed in the long run.
Your kids may need a lot of you as you navigate exciting summer adventures so to avoid getting burned out, you’ll want to prioritise your own needs first. Regular listening partnerships will keep you afloat when everybody needs a piece of you. Remember to carve out regular time for yourself so you can come back renewed and able to give your kids what they actually need so that you can all have more fun.
I hope you can come and catch me for a workshop at one of these festivals this summer:
Wilderness – Aug 4-5th
A new parenting paradigm
The Togetherness ritual
Never too late to have a happy childhood
Starry Skies – Aug 11th
Why kids push our buttons
Raising emotionally healthy children
Into the Wild – Aug 24-26th
Why kids push our buttons
Listening to children
Togetherness Summer Festival – Aug 31st-Sep 2nd
Listening for better relationships
Raising emotionally resilient children