The school day tends to bring a rhythm to a family’s life, a pattern to follow, a routine to stick to. This routine may have its own challenges, to be sure, but when a school break comes, many parents find themselves counting down the days for the kids to return to that routine! How do you parent well over a school break?
ENJOY THE EXTRA TIME
It may be frustrating to suddenly have seven extra hours a day for the kids to poke at each other, annoy each other, tattle on each other, and just generally make more noise. But this is what kids do! They have questions, they have energy, and they are trying to figure out life. Enjoy this extra time with your children in a way that works for your family. Do they love questions? Let them ask questions for an hour while you clean the living room. Do they love video games? Play an extra game with them in the middle of the day. Find fun family activities, even as simple as wearing your pajamas until dinnertime. Whatever your kids are enjoying, this season of life will pass quickly. Take moments during the holiday to give extra attention.
PLAN YOUR OWN DAY DIFFERENTLY
With extra family time, it is probably unlikely that you can put the same energy into your work tasks, your household chores, or whatever else is on your own personal schedule. Again, this season will pass quickly, so try to prepare in advance and limit the priorities that you are trying to accomplish each day. Perhaps it will help to wake up earlier on these day or plan some outings for the kids, so you can get things done. But don’t try to keep your own normal schedule while your kids are out of theirs.
RULES AND CONSEQUENCES ARE STILL OKAY
The house rules don’t need to fly out the window when the kids are home, but they also don’t need to ramp up in their intensity. Continue to hold your children accountable for their words, choices, and actions. There may even be extra time to talk through the why of their consequences (both good and bad consequences!) when they make decisions. At Christmas, you may be tempted to emphasize how Santa will respond to their behavior, but what they really need to see is how mom and dad respond to their behavior. Your consistency may feel like a greater challenge when there is more time together, but take deep breaths during the day, smile big, and pray as you go!
DON’T LET THEM TURN OFF THEIR BRAIN (ENTIRELY)
Your kids don’t go to school to get grades, or to have a babysitter all day: they go to school to learn. Their job as children is to learn and grow, so that they can one day leave your house and be a competent, healthy, independent adult. This may feel far away when your nine year old wants to play video games for 12 hours in a row, but this goal is still there: your kids should always be learning and growing. They need to rest over their school break, but not at the exclusion of using their brain at all. Dig into the holiday that has allowed for the break: Why do we celebrate this? How did it start? What does it mean to different cultures? Discuss the life lessons of the video game they are enjoying. Pause to eat dinner together as a family. Keep them learning even beyond the walls of the school building!
Parenting is hard work – especially when you have a change in the routine, extra time together, and perhaps higher emotions than usual if a holiday is coming. But it is worth the effort! What do you find most challenging about parenting during a school break? How do you handle the extra challenge?