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Parenting Tips for the Winter Break

In this image we see a husband and wife with their two children sitting in between them on the bed. The house is decorated in Christmas decorations, as they watch a Christmas movie on a projector.

Parenting Tips for the Winter Break

In this image we see a husband and wife with their two children sitting in between them on the bed. The house is decorated in Christmas decorations, as they watch a Christmas movie on a projector.

The winter break is not just a hiatus from school; it’s an opportunity for families to come together, recharge, and deepen their connections. However, this time of year can also pose unique challenges, especially for parents navigating the delicate balance between holiday festivities and maintaining emotional well-being. For the children in question, their main weekly structure is removed. Some may have after-school jobs that become more full-time for the duration of the break, but others, especially younger kids, are suddenly free of any of their usual obligations. This doesn’t mean that parents’ obligations stop. Most parents continue to work during some or all of this period, as well as running the household as usual and making time for annual events and gatherings.

Assuming you are all off together, the extended time in close quarters can bring some issues to a head. Traveling, both the preparation for it and the actual travel itself can raise the stakes in such a way that families bicker more easily. If you travel to a destination where you are sharing rooms, issues may arise from needing alone time and struggling to find the space for it. Being underfoot of one another can be tricky any time of the year. Add to that the pressure to “make holiday memories,” and you’ve got all the pressure you need for a breakdown in communication, resentment, exhaustion, hurt feelings, and more.

Winter Break Stressors for Parents

A biracial family is together in their home. The father is sitting at his desk doing work on the desktop with papers in his hands. The mother is in the kitchen cooking, as their two daughters sit by her on the kitchen counter.
  • Loss of the Ordinary Routine: While winter break can be filled with fun activities, you may also miss your usual routine. Your day-to-day activities can feel disorganized or disoriented. This can be extra burdensome if you have ADHD, as routine plays a major role in helping you feel confident and prepared in your daily life.
  • Decrease in Sleep and Self-Care Time: Due to traveling or changes in the ordinary routine, most people report losing their healthy sleep hygiene and self-care activities. This can add to the anxiety associated with the holidays, as you are utilizing energy without being able to properly replenish it. When running on empty, we are less able to regulate our emotions.
  • Difficulty Setting Boundaries: For some of us, holidays can be extra stressful, with the pressure to attend more social and family events. On winter break, an argument can be made that there is a lot of time to fit everything in, and without proper boundaries in place, parents find themselves running around to events they both want and don’t really want to attend.

3 Parenting Tips for Winter Break

1) Reach out for support:

In this image we see a family of 6 sitting beside each other on the couch. The two grandparents are sitting on the outer ends of the couch, as the two young parents sit in the middle with their two children on each of their laps. They are all laughing together. Parenting Tips

Hopefully, you have some sort of village around you. Are there grandparents, friends, aunts, and uncles who can help you out? If your instinct is to avoid reaching out, ask yourself why. What story are you telling yourself; does it accurately reflect the situation? If you have a village who is quick to offer support, who shows up for you and your kids when asked, and who you feel close to and comfortable with, then your hesitation is likely to do with your feelings about “needing help.” This is understandable; many of us try to “do it all” and believe there is no excuse not to. Consider how you would feel if your loved ones never reached out to you when they needed it. Would you think that that was a call reflective of the situation, or would you wonder why they didn’t know they could count on you?

Assuming a decent amount of mutual respect for boundaries and strong communication between you, putting out the word that a little help would go a long way shouldn’t cause you to worry that these people are extending themselves beyond their comfort level. If you say, “This is the current schedule. These times are times when it would be great to have someone take this kid for a couple of hours; these times are when it would be great to have someone take all kids for the morning…” etc., then you know that your village can look at that schedule to determine if and when it would work for them to lend a hand.

If you don’t have a core group of helpers, are there other parents you can take turns caring for the kids? If there are enough of you, and each of you can take one day of the week, you can have full-time childcare in no time. Or, if you need one block of time off, you can trade taking the kids somewhere or having them over one day for another parent returning the favor on another. It is tempting to give in to the idea that “everyone is busy, so no one can help,” but actually, each of you is likely busy at different times. If you collaborate, you can make time for everyone to have their share of fun, work, and rest.

Support doesn’t only come in the form of childminding. Sometimes, you and/or your kid(s) need some support for your mental health. If you are the parent of a teen, your teen may attend therapy. Teen therapy provides a safe space in which to explore and build tools around thoughts and feelings, both negative and positive. Does your teen have a session or two scheduled during the break? We offer teen therapy in Woodland Hills that includes check-ins with parents to make sure that treatment planning and execution are clear and being worked toward in a consistent manner. This kind of support can make a difference in how your teen feels, how they communicate with you, how you communicate with them, and how actively you listen to one another.

2) Make it fun for everyone:

In this image we see the Downtown Los Angeles ice rink. There are children ice skating outdoors. Parenting Tips

“Everyone” includes YOU! While it is important to keep kids entertained, make sure your plans involve things you also like to do. For example, if you like being outdoors, try to have a holiday chalk party in your front yard. With the southern California climate, you’re unlikely to be rained out of an outdoor plan; just remember to bring enough layers to stay warm. There are plenty of outdoor movies and other events that you can take the family to to get out of the house and have a fun day.

You might be interested in trying activities that take more time than you might usually have, or at least the room in your schedule to try something new, like art or pottery classes for everyone. Another option is to look at more novel, seasonal outings, like going to an ice rink for some skating.

If you are off work while the kids are on winter break, you have the opportunity to create a schedule at your leisure and turn the chaos of open-ended days into joyful experiences. If you’re able to travel and find yourself dreaming of snow, ski trips are a great way to participate in a more stereotypical winter wonderland. You may travel a couple of hours to Big Bear for a couple of days trips or commute a little farther and spend a few nights at a resort.

Depending on how old your child is/children are, you can ask for input from them about what they’d like to do over the break. Younger children will likely name their favorite playplace and a friend they want to have a playdate with. Older children might have heard about events through their social groups or their time online and proposed those. When talking about how you’re going to fill some of your time, keep in mind the spirit of collaboration. You don’t have to do everything your kiddos suggest; it would behoove you to do at least some of it. Invite your family to consider the logistics a little bit by looking at a calendar together and designating time for certain activities.

Part of growing up is observing the people around you, especially your caregivers. When you show enthusiasm for certain activities, you model that for your kids. When you express what you would like to do and why, you are showing your kids how to communicate their desires and share what matters to them. Being honest about what intrigues or appeals to you is also an excellent way for your kids to get to know you outside of your parenting role and connect with you on multiple levels.

Part of making the winter break fun for everyone is to have the support of your boundaries from everyone. We talked before about your village showing up to help with childcare or attending therapy to make sure your kids are processing what they need to process at this time. Another way your village can support you is by respecting your time. Without question, there will be time best utilized by your family as rest time, time for space, or time with just those of you who live together. Don’t be afraid to make sure that that time is earmarked accordingly. Everyone will have a better time if their boundaries are respected. This includes respecting the rest time and space of your village; it goes both ways.

3) Plan ahead:

An Asian American family of three are on a blanket at the beach enjoying a picnic. Behind them we see the Santa Monica pier. Parenting Tips

When you look at planning ahead, it doesn’t necessarily mean you plan ahead for the whole month but try to plan for a week at a time. If that’s too much, at least plan for the next day, the night before. That way, you feel more secure and grounded, knowing your day with your kid(s) has already been scheduled. We, as human beings, like predictability. Our bodies try to regulate everything about us, including our nervous systems. When we have a plan, we are able to predict a greater percentage of our day. Surprises and mishaps will still arise, but they will be easier to recover from if we haven’t been scrambling all day to begin with.

Lay out your framework where you can see at least a week at a time. Plot in non-negotiables, like work shifts, appointments, and deadlines. Use a different color of pen for each family member and mark down where everyone has to be at any time. Once you have that recorded, you will know you’re not going to drop any balls. You will also have a visual of spaces that can be filled or left blank for flex time. That time off from school will likely have your children ready to drop all schedules and routines, so keep the structure you know works for the family and provides them with a framework, but also plan for a couple of days of sleeping in and getting nothing done. They will likely want time to reset and rest a little, and you deserve the same.

When you plan ahead, you are able to research what might be coming up that is in line with your family’s interests, schedule, and budget. Again, not every moment of the winter break has to have an event or activity planned in it, but being able to attend a couple of special occasions can be a lot of fun when they don’t take away from other important plans or necessities. In looking ahead for them, you can boost the overall list of fun things your family is doing on the break more strategically, leaving other days open to keep the balance of rest and play.

Planning ahead also includes delegating and letting go of some outcomes. If you are in a partnership, it is not solely your responsibility to keep track of every event, every craft, every baked good, every gift, and every ugly holiday sweater. The mental load of being the person in charge cannot be understated. It is one thing to make a list and be able to delegate. It is an entirely better thing to collaborate on a running list with someone who knows it is also their responsibility and to have things done without having to ask.

In this image a family of 6 is sitting together on the dinner table. They are enjoying food together as they all laugh and smile.

The desire to “make everything perfect” is something we hear a lot in our therapy for adults, therapy for couples, and therapy for teens. Some of us feel the pressure to create these magical experiences; others feel compelled to show up and enjoy them for the benefit of others. Feelings of guilt then follow as we resent doing all the work or “putting on a show.” Remember that the best way for your family to spend winter break is in the way that works best for your family! Set aside what you see online; social media is a curated (read: heavily edited) version of peoples’ lives. Without context, a photo of smiling faces at a certain event may look like “doing winter the right way,” but remember: that photo might not reflect how those people actually felt that day, and even if it does, that doesn’t mean that their experience would be right for your family. Give yourselves time together, time apart, and time to do things that would normally be too tricky to squeeze in, including both adventures and rest.

Teen Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA

Our Teen Therapy services at Embracing You Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, are designed to understand and improve the special relationship you have with your teen. Our clinicians work with you and your teen collaboratively to understand the challenges and the strengths of your teen to have long-term change and to guide them in thriving during their adolescent years.  Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!

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