Winter Break is Coming to Town!!
Ways to Connect as a Family and Enjoy the Winter Time Off
As Winter Break approaches, many families may be looking forward to the break while working hard at the task at hand and experiencing a variety of feelings. Parents may be busy trying to wrap up loose ends at work to ensure they can rest and relax peacefully with their loved ones at home. Teens may be feeling increasingly stressed as they inch closer to final exams just before break. Children may be building excitement in anticipation of winter break and the holidays as they partake in increased festive school activities and classroom parties just before break.
Once Winter Break and time off arrive, Parents and teens may find they are tired and need to slow down and rest whereas children may be revved up and ready to hit the start of break with a number of activities.
Given the differences, how can we balance break in a way that is restful, active, and enjoyable for everyone while fostering positive family connections? Here are some ideas.
- Start with open communication. Parents can explain to children that the early days of break may be more quiet and relaxed so that Parents and teens can rest from the busy days they had just before break began. This models perspective taking, respect, and consideration of what different people need. This is also a good opportunity to remind the family that while break has begun, maintaining a daily routine of sleeping 8 hours overnight and consuming 3 nutritious meals through the day can support them to feel well and enjoy break.
- Plan to spend some quality time connecting with your family at least once each day. For example, you can plan to have daily meals together, to play board games together for an afternoon, and have a movie night at home with hot cocoa and cuddly blankets.
- As a family, discuss and learn which activities they would like to do over break and aim to choose a handful of activities that capture the interests.
- Go old school with a wall calendar! Many people, especially children, benefit from visual reminders. Involve the family and have fun creatively marking the calendar with the activities the family selected and gatherings. Throughout break, family members can refer to the calendar for reminders of upcoming activities to look forward to and to avoid scheduling conflicts.
- If you decide to host a gathering at your home, don’t take on all the work yourself. Host the gathering together as a family while setting an expectation that everyone in the family will share in the preparation, entertaining, and cleanup. Parents can assign different developmentally appropriate tasks to teens and children to do in preparation of a gathering, during the gathering, and afterwards during cleanup. Remember to use this opportunity, and others throughout break, to catch loved ones doing good things and let them know! For example, when your child makes an effort to complete a task you asked of them or you see your child engage in a positive behavior without prompting, let them know you saw them and that you like and appreciate this. This not only teaches the child that this is a good behavior, it also helps build the child’s self-confidence and self-esteem, builds their confidence and trust in their Parent that they are seen, appreciated, and valued, and increases feelings of positivity and closeness with their Parent resulting in a strengthened parent-child relationship.
- Amidst the bustling activities and gatherings over break, don’t forget to sneak in special 1:1 moments! Caring positive eye contact, a warm smile, gentle and appreciative words, physical affection like a hug, sharing snacks, helping without being asked, and giving time, space, and attention as they need are powerful ways to show your care and stay connected.
- No matter how fun winter break plans can be, it is important to remember that family members will sometimes need a break from the hustle and bustle. They may prefer to opt out of an activity, to spend some time alone, to be in a less stimulating space, or even complete quiet. Try to be understanding, flexible, and supportive of the needs.
- When curveballs disrupt plans and expectations, negative emotions may arise. Try to be gentle and remind yourself and your family that it will be okay and you will figure this out together. Talking things through as a family can help.
- Practice gratitude. Winter break may include quality time with family, time off, holidays, and festivities for some but not all. Consider ways your family can share warm sentiments and gestures with others. Some ideas include spreading kindness, warm greetings, sending cards, donating unused items such as gently used clothing, books, and toys, and volunteering in a soup kitchen. Through such activities, your family may experience gratitude for your family connection and life circumstances as well as develop hope that should your family ever experience some type of need, others in the community may step in to help you too.
-Jabeen Ali, M.D.