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Surviving the Summer holidays with your PDAer

Aug 12, 2021

Surviving the Summer holidays with your PDAer.

It’s the time of year when social media likes to remind us that “we only have 18 precious summers with our children”, and it seems as if everyone is out there having adventures and #MakingMemories. All those Instagram photos of smiling children splashing in the sea one day and exploring Legoland the next, can feel like an accusation. As if you are somehow failing if you don’t do the same.

So, dreaming of making summer memories, you pack everyone up and head to the zoo. Of course it takes hours just to leave the house so by the time you arrive you’re determined to make the most of it. You drag everyone round to see every single exhibit, have tea out and only leave at closing time. 

Then the meltdowns hit.

This is exactly how summer days used to go in my family before I knew about PDA. I just wanted to have a fun day but the lasting memories were always of meltdowns and arguments. Looking back I even remember similar trips from my own childhood, my mum wanting to see every exhibit at the museum when I was too exhausted to take any of it in! 

These days I have learnt a better, less stressful, way to structure our days and weeks in the holidays. I’ve learned that less, is more ...


Shopping trips and other everyday outings

We all have to do things, pop to the shops or attend an appointment. It may not be fun, but these things have to be done!

The trouble is, walking into a supermarket can be a huge assault on your senses. The music, all the people, bright lights, huge echoey space, bright colours. And then there’s all the expectations around social distancing, queueing, things you shouldn’t touch and ways to behave. No wonder it can be overwhelming!

If you live in a two adult household then one solution is to shop alone, another option might be to place orders online. Either way, planning is important. Aim to get everything you need for the week so that you won’t have to do top up shops.

When you do have to go somewhere, stick to just one place. Avoid booking lots of appointments in one day or popping into another shop. The sensory impact of going into lots of places could well be too much. 

When you are in the shop it can be helpful if your PDAer has something to focus on. Letting them have control of the shopping list or the scanner can make all the difference.


Big trips out

There are probably two types of day trips. Some are low cost and fairly low demand, like going to the beach or a forest. Everyone has a lot of freedom to choose their own activities and they tend not to be very overwhelming, unless there are a lot of people there.

Other trips are much higher stakes. The entry ticket is expensive, it’s busy, noisy and bright. Maybe there’s a long journey involved as well.

If you want to go somewhere like a theme park, a children’s museum or a festival there are a few things that will make your day much less stressful. First of all, keep it short. Two or three hours are the most that my family can handle, and while it seems a shame not to stay and “get our money’s worth”, it wouldn’t be worth the cost in terms of meltdowns and fights.

You can also ask your children how long they want to stay, and if there is anything in particular they want to see or do. Having a sense of that time boundary really helps everyone to enjoy the trip, and leave on a good note.

Don’t forget to plan some downtime to recover after a big outing. It might take a day or two of staying at home, perhaps with extra screen time, to recharge. You may decide that one trip every two weeks is enough for your family, and if so that’s OK.



The important thing with holidays is to keep everything as simple as you can. 

Renting a house might be a better choice than a hotel. That way you can have some control over the environment and have a place to potter about on quiet days. It also means you can provide familiar foods and stick to your usual routines as much as you need to.

Once you have found somewhere that you like, returning each year can be helpful. The familiarity makes things easier and you can slowly drip feed your PDAer memories over the weeks before you leave. Just quietly remind them of the beach, the fish and chip shop, the bunk beds or anything else that will spark familiarity when you arrive.

Above all, whatever you do this summer, be compassionate with yourself. Stay in your own lane and ignore those who seem to be going on a different adventure every day. After all, you never know what’s going on behind those smiling social media photos! Give your children and young people what they need, in their own time, and enjoy a relaxed summer and a slower sort of fun.

You never know, maybe someone on Instagram is envying your #slowsummer!