In the 1970s when I was a young parent, by this time of the year I would be tearing my hair out wondering how I’d manage full-time work and the school holidays.
I had done some advance planning of course but living in the country was not the same as town living where children could walk to play and sporting events.
It helped that I had a lovely woman who cared for my two boys while I worked, but she, bless her, didn’t drive so lifts had to be arranged and to this day I’m eternally grateful to the women who helped me out.
Some of them became good friends and thankfully I’m still close to two of them. We had a right collection of children amongst us, young men and women now, with children of their own, living in all corners of the world, no doubt wondering themselves how to amuse the young ones during school holidays.
It was around about that time in the 70s that schools in Northern Ireland introduced six weeks of summer holiday school activities to give the children something to do as stories were rife of bored youngsters running the streets and getting up to all sorts of tricks.
Those school programmes became more sport oriented and I’m sure they encouraged lots of them to think about events like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
My own children, coming from a sailing family, as they got older, discovered sailing courses at Killyleagh. Seaboard was based in a High School at Strangford Lough and our boys both became accomplished sailors as a result.
So we’ve always been grateful to the staff who ran it even though, by the end of those summer courses, Himself and I were run ragged as the school was an hour and a half’s drive from home.
We spent every summer weekend in a car – driving and Saturdays and Sundays sitting on cold beaches watching those young sailors build memories for the future.
Other parents turned to football, rugby, hockey and netball courses. I have a recollection of some of the many courses being shortened to four weeks – I’m sure it was to save staff from exhaustion.
Maybe schools and clubs were better funded in those days tog allow summer activities though I believe some still have courses for shorter periods. With teachers having to plead and beg for money these days to simply keep going I can understand why so many children are at home and bored now during the summer holidays.
The website Groupon reports research that parents can only keep their children entertained until 1.30pm during a typical day in the summer holidays despite suggesting 13 things for their child to do every week of the holidays.
Keeping them occupied is also expensive says Groupon with parents spending an average of £251 to keep their children occupied over July and August. This figure is being reined in as households face higher prices and interest rates.
With so many parents working it’s not going to be easy to keep children occupied at home.
My generation in the 1950s never had a problem during school holidays. We couldn’t wait to get out of the house after breakfast returning only when we heard our name being called from some distance away because we knew tea would be on the table. The only exception my mother made was we were not allowed to go near the Moyola River without an adult and a rope and we had to stick to the sand banks.
We were never short of food and knew where the blueberries and raspberries were and later the blackberries. Not a tree was left unclimbed and on hot summer nights we were allowed to camp out and make a bonfire.
Today we cannot leave our children unguarded in the countryside and so they’ve turned to technology for amusement. Not the same fun at all.
No wonder they’re so easily bored.