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Coach’s Diary: Holiday Blues


The holiday season is nearly upon us and with it the prospect of a some well-earned of r'n'r. But for Olivia Stefanino's client this week the prospect of fortnight's holiday with the family sends his blood pressure soaring.

Peter admitted that he wasn’t looking forward to the summer holidays – especially as he didn’t want a repeat of last year’s misery.

Recognising that he needed to do something positive if he and his family were going to make the most of their time off together, Peter had decided to take some professional advice.

Married for 12 years, Peter and his wife Mary have two children – an 11-year-old girl and a boy aged nine. Just over a year ago, the couple had moved into the area because of Peter’s job. The plan had been that the children would start at their new school in September – but the unfortunate result had been that neither child had local friends with whom to play.

“Both kids ended up taking their frustration out on each other,” Peter told me, “and the whole of the summer was spent with two children screaming and crying.”

While Peter had been able to busy himself at work, the brunt of the unhappy situation had been borne by Mary – who blamed her husband for not doing more to help out.

Peter was prepared to do whatever it took to avoid a repeat situation, which is how he came to be sitting in my office. I asked Peter if the family planned to go away over the holiday period, but Peter shook his head, saying that with the expense of the house move, the family simply couldn’t afford a holiday abroad this year.

I suggested that Peter – even if the family wasn’t going away on holiday – should still book himself a fortnight’s leave to spend with the family. That way, I pointed out, at least Mary would feel that he was sharing the workload.

Nodding his head in agreement, Peter asked for some tips for keeping his children entertained. “I suspect that one of the reasons that there was so much friction last year was because the children were bored,” I said. “Of course this year it will be a little easier, as they will have school friends around. I guess sometimes you could have their friends over to play – and on other occasions they could play at a friend’s house, which at least means that all the parents get a break at some point!”

Peter also agreed that it was important for him and Mary to have some time for themselves as a couple. Both had felt increasingly resentful the previous year, as they had not had any relaxation time together that had not been child-focussed.

“The key is to plan – and communicate. But at this stage, planning the summer holidays rather than just letting them happen is going to pay huge dividends,” I pointed out.

I suggested that the couple organise a diary for the holidays and plan activities for each day. Looking at Peter’s face, I realised that he was concerned about the cost.

“Not every activity has to cost money,” I reassured him. “Children tend to be most difficult when they are bored – and when they are not getting enough attention. Rather than sitting them in front of the video – or with a pile of computer games – make sure that they get to spend quality time with you. For example, I know of several children who are really proud of the garden makeover they did with their parents – so let your children help you to do something creative too.”

It might also be helpful, I told Peter, to use the Internet to see what is going on in the area in which the family live. “As well as providing ideas for keeping the whole family entertained, there are also lots of special deals and discounts advertised on the Internet, so make the most of them!”

Peter and I used the rest of our session together to plan for the summer holidays – including visiting new places in the area, as well as sporting and educational activities.

Knowing that he could now avoid the unplanned chaos of last year, Peter looked relieved – and promised to send me a postcard from one of the family’s picnic outings.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


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