The summer holidays can bring stresses of many kinds, but the problems associated with it are mostly external ones, concerning how we organise our society and what we consider important.
I’ve been reading a few articles and surveys recently about parents facing the mid-summer holiday tipping point.
There is no denying that the summer holidays are long, expensive, stressful childcare-wise and often boring. For many parents there will be problems not only covering childcare, but feeding children. Many of the problems associated with the summer holidays are to do with external factors – lack of available, flexible, affordable childcare, wages that do not cover living expenses, benefits cuts, etc.
Sometimes I read these articles and I think we are spending our whole lives seeing children as causes of stress when they are not the actual cause of the stress. I hope they don’t read a lot of these articles. Yes, they can be difficult, sibling rivalry is endless, being constantly pestered for things gets on your nerves, having the house taken over by BTS-athons and never being able to access Netflix is a pain.
But… My eldest daughter starts university in September and it does make you reflect. I’ve also been visiting a young person in a secure unit who is really struggling with life in general. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the expectations that are piled on us, both adults and young people. We blame social media for many of today’s mental health issues and I am pretty sure it does have a role to play – the whole measuring everything, including most importantly your self esteem, by how much something you post is liked – but I think the wider issue of access to enormous amounts of information of all its varying shades can also be overwhelming.
I’m not just talking about the negative stuff. The positive stuff about travelling the world, becoming an internet sensation, being amazing can also be paralysing, especially when you are finding it hard enough trying to find out who you are.
We are all stuck in the same expectation soup – bombarded by images of what we could do or be. No-one can live up to them, not even if all the obstacles in our way were removed.
The world is changing very fast – climate change is speeding up, the whirlwind technology revolution is just at the beginning and politics is struggling to keep up, leading to fantasy promises and easy scapegoating. We need time to pause and reflect on where we want to be and what matters.