Parenting is forever. Parenting young children is not. While we are in the rush and mayhem of running children here & there, completing homework and meeting our own responsibilities, it is easy to forget that we are given one chance to spend winter break with our children at the age they are today. Your child will spend one year as that engaging 3 year old or witty 8 year old or maturing 15 year old. Your children’s world expands every year and, if you do it right, they become more independent all the time. You cannot go back when they are adults and have this winter break, next weekend or the upcoming summer again. There are no do-overs.
Treasure the time you have with your children. I am always sad when parents bemoan school breaks or days off. I am sad for those parents. The children will do what children do – they will find ways to play and have fun. The parents who dread the breaks are the ones who are missing out. In this hectic world, we all need to take a step back from time to time and remember what it is like to just enjoy what we strive to have – a happy family life.
This year, with Christmas and New Year in the middle of the week, the winter break in many school districts is longer than usual. I hope you will:
- Turn off the electronics and talk. With new video games as holiday gifts, it is going to be tempting to spend time in front of the flat screen, but don’t. School break is a great time to talk. When my boys were younger, I remember literally saying to them, “Let’s talk.” Yes – their eyes sometimes rolled to the back of their heads but I was not afraid. I asked questions about school and their friends. I told them about my work and told funny stories. We smiled, laughed and took time to look each other in the eye. Now that they are grown, that open door of communication has paid off. You can be the first person they want to go to tell their stories. Use the days off as a time to build communication.
- Take family trips – even free, local ones. School breaks are the perfect time to peak your children’s curiosity. Visit museums. Explore local sites and cities. Take a walk together. If the weather doesn’t permit outdoor activities, go on an indoor adventure at the library. Children think it is great fun to have an adventure – no expense is required. No matter what you do – costly or free – you will be creating a shared memory.
- Include your children in your responsibilities. With no homework to do or class to run to, your children can meet your responsibilities with you. You can cook together or clean together. Young children feel very grown up when they are asked to help with chores that they associate with their parents. When they help, be sure to praise their efforts. Your living room may not be perfectly clean but your children will feel so proud.
- Enjoy play with your children. Not only should the children do what you do, but you should participate in their activities. Time off from your everyday activities means time to make animals out of Play Doh or paint beautiful watercolor pictures. Build with blocks. Feed the baby doll. Pretend to be superheroes. While you have matured and cannot pretend with the same level of belief as young children who cannot separate fantasy from reality, you can wonder at their imagination. When you allow young children to steer the activity and you really listen to them, you learn a lot about how they view their world.
Enjoy this winter break and all the weekends & days off to come. Each time you look at your children, remember that every day they grow and change. They will only be who they are today for a short time. Don’t miss it.
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