Winter Break – The Highs, the Lows and How to make the Most of It
Come on, admit it - we are all focused on getting to the Christmas break. Our kids have been talking about it since Thanksgiving and to be honest, in your heart of hearts – you are right there with them. But before we assume “Whew – no school, no stress for two weeks – we’re just going to relax” let’s remember that breaks, however needed, have their own set of pitfalls. They break down into two main categories; How to Manage Time/Events and Worrying about Return to School.
Managing your Time and Events Tip list (Balance)
In an attempt to make this vacation time “the Absolute Bestest Christmas Ever” we have a tendency to overdo…to much running, cooking, eating, late nights, projects, entertaining...The change in routine is welcome but if we get caught up in the chaos, we will be exhausted and crabby.
Prep your kids Ahead of Time Lots of new and exciting things happen during the holidays. New people are met, new experiences attempted, new foods sampled, new traditions started. For our dyslexics who are not always thrilled to be put into unfamiliar territory this can be delightful or debilitating. Often, dyslexics worry about new situations “what if I get lost, got the time wrong, can’t understand the game instructions, can’t read the game instructions, don’t know what to say, can’t remember anyone’s names, forgot I was supposed to………….” And they can worry themselves right into a stomach ache!
Keep a Basic Bedtime: We all want break to be relaxing – no schedules means you can stay up late watching a movie marathon or finishing that family game of Monopoly. After all – you can sleep in tomorrow! Everyone loves the chance to sleep in and getting caught up on some much needed rest is important for your students as well as you, the Fearless Leaders of the Pack…However, changing the routine drastically for two weeks will make the adjustment afterwards that much more stressful. Dyslexics do better when a solid routine is in place. They know what to expect and there is comfort in that. Certainly, let your kids sleep an extra hour each day and feel free to flex a bit on bedtime but keep the crazy night owl hours for New Year’s Eve.
Keep Up with the Daily Tasks: Hold your kiddos (and yourself) to some maintenance each day – the last thing you want to realize on January 1st, is that no one has clean socks because they are all in the really cool fort currently residing in your living room. If you had a daily summer chore list, pull it out. We all do better with routine – we may not like it, but if it keeps us on track, the better we all feel.
Remember to break down your chores into manageable chunks. How many times have I told one of my kids to “Clean your Room” only to walk by an hour later and they are sitting in the middle of the chaos playing with Legos??? It really is true that our students struggle with figuring out how to start such an overwhelming job, so be specific. “Zack – bring me all the dirty socks, including the ones under your bed. (Does it strike you we may have a sock problem at my house?) Then Zack, put your clean laundry away.” Since he’s fifteen, I can give him two or three chores at once as long as I have him repeat them. When he was younger I had him do one job and then come find me for the next one. The Chore List always got lost, misplaced or was never read so auditory instructions became my Go-To.
Have fun with Chores! Sounds crazy, right? Most of you have NO problem with this tip but sometimes, we forget to take the little breaks as we race around trying to get ready for this family get-together or that community event. We want to make the most of every moment and forget the journey is as important as the destination. Doing whatever is on the day’s agenda together is also a huge bonus because you can enjoy each other while you work. Playing games as you do chores – basketball with those dirty socks, I Spy in the grocery store, a snowball fight after shoveling, can make the jobs a memory instead of a To Do list.
End of Break Preparation
One of the biggest is the worries that come at the END of break as we have to face school and work again. There is this cloud that hovers over our house starting about 10 a.m. on January 1st . (Do most kids go back on January 2 or is it the 3rd this year?) Nobody is very excited for the fun to be over. For some of our kids, the anxiety has been building for days before this and they are in full panic mode the night before school begins. Knowing our worriers as we do means preparing them from the beginning of break and not ignoring the signs. Here are a couple of tips.
Keep them Reading: It doesn’t matter how old they are, reading is a habit we don’t want them to lose and two weeks is enough time to make that an uphill battle once school begins again. It doesn’t have to be in their AR level or the high school version of reading torture “Lord of the Flies” – it just has to be something they LIKE…
Audible books are great options as well – we have enjoyed them on our way to Grandmother’s house and then the whole family is enjoying and relating to the same story. It opens up opportunities to talk about the characters and the storyline and changes “I HAVE to read” into “This story is pretty cool…or doesn’t totally stink,” etc. Getting teenagers into a decent series can be frustrating because you need something that grabs their attention right away and is in their genre of interest. If you are looking for solutions for that, ask on our Facebook page and we will do our best to find something that will entice your child.
Let them voice their concerns: Venting is OK – shoot, I don’t really want to jump back into commuting in the dark, hours of paperwork and deadlines and walking off the two pounds of Christmas goodies I couldn’t do without. Venting is only bad if there is no post-vent plan. When my students tell me they are worried about a school “thing” (read – missing assignment, project they forgot to do, class they are struggling with) we come up with a plan to solve the worry. Sometimes having a plan in place “in case of emergency” can take a huge weight off our student.
Help them see the Big Picture: Perspective is everything. We know that school isn’t the worst possible scenario because we, as adults, are aware of so many other significantly more terrifying things. But our kids don’t, and can’t get that perspective yet because they lack life experience. I once read that a toddler had the full range of emotions that an adult has with none of the perspective. That means those Terrible Twos are just a product of “OH MY GOSH MY WORLD IS ENDING BECAUSE WE HAVE NO MORE JUICE BOXES” and if that is the worst thing you have experienced in your life it really must feel pretty life threatening. Luckily, toddlers will get tomorrow’s crisis, “OH MY GOSH M WORLD IS ENDING BECAUSE I HAVE TO SHARE MY OREOS” and this one will pale by comparison.
Walking our kids through the worst case scenario is one way to help them see the bigger picture. Asking questions like, “What’s the worst that can happen?” gives you a picture into their fears and then allows us into the Plan A for the End of Zack’s World (I failed my Driver’s Ed Permit test) all the way to Plan Z for the End of Zack’s World (I will keep taking it over and over until I get it and my mother won’t judge me but will keep my privacy). By naming the fear – we can help them address it – the unknown is always a lot scarier.
No matter how you celebrate during the Christmas break – there are always stresses. Helping your kids handle theirs will make your whole families’ season more “Merry and Bright”. Merry Christmas to you and yours.