My View, Mel Hewitt: Make the most of childhood moments

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It’s that time of year again when we are just weeks away from the end of the school year.

For some families it will be a time of togetherness and adventure, for others a panic-strewn six weeks of trying to sort out childcare and keeping the peace between siblings.

As has been proved time and time again, when it comes to entertaining your kids, memories are made of the things you share, not the things you buy. Picnics, cricket on the beach, storytelling and messy painting are all high on the ‘things I loved about my childhood’ list.

The most expensive ingredient for many of these activities is time. Which we all know we can’t turn back.

Yes, of course there are a million things to be done when you’re a parent, particularly if you’re working, a carer, or on your own, but five minutes can make all the difference when it comes to keeping the kids and yourself happy.

My ‘kids’ are now 24 and 18 – which I can hardly believe. Where did 25 years go?

When you’re younger and older relatives tell you to enjoy every second – even the bits when there really is no sleep – as before you know it your baby will be a grown-up and leaving home, it doesn’t really register as a reality.

Children also bring with them, if you’re lucky and you have an ‘open door’ policy at home, a whole tribe of friends who will enrich your life and to whom from time to time you may find yourself acting as a surrogate parent.

All kids have issues, whether it’s fear of being left at playgroup when they’re five or how to deal with a bully at ‘big’ school. Later on it might be exam stress or coping with a first proper job.

Communication is a key life skill and the foundation for sharing and nurturing the confidence to do this well begins at home, with listening to what our children are telling us. A trouble shared is a trouble halved.

Time again is the important ingredient here. Time out to find out who our kids really are, their hopes and fears, dreams and dilemmas.

A couple of weeks ago my youngest child left school. After a gap year she may well be flying the nest to go to university.

I have already been through this routine with her older brother. The first time around it is bad enough – the change in the people dynamic, the quieter moments that you once may have wished for now seem to make the house echo. The tidy lounge and kitchen perhaps doesn’t make up for the buzz of a manic household, full of discussion, drama and warmth.

With your children you are always preparing them for life, which with luck will make them independent and fulfilled and it all begins with listening and sharing – not just in the summer holidays, but all year round.