Now that it’s March and the malls are showcasing their spring lines, it’s hard not to wait impatiently for the snow to melt and the flowers to bloom. Hard not to think about longer days and talking leisurely walks outside. Another sign of spring is March Break since the first day of spring occurs during the time that most Canadian children are enjoying their week off school.
For some, March break is a time to get away to a much appreciated warmer climate. Others take shorter trips closer to home. For many, March Break allows your children - or your entire family - to take an extended break. Here are some things to consider:
1. Take a break. My advice to parents, and children, is to give themselves permission to take a well deserved break. Parents enjoy not having to get their children out of bed and making school lunches. Kids love sleeping in or staying in their pyjamas until noon. If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying time off with your children, remove some of the day-to-day pressures off your shoulders. As normal as it is to want to make sure that our children are always entertained and never bored, this is an opportunity to go from fast forward to pause. Practise saying “no” to being busy all the time.
2. Balance is key. If you must plan activities, remember that balance is key. Maybe reserve certain days for playdates, seeing a movie or going bowling and other days for doing nothing much. Children benefit from learning that they don’t always have to be busy to be happy.
3. Lazy PJ day. Designate at least one day as a lazy PJ day. This means that no one gets out of their pyjamas for an entire 24 hours. No one makes his or her bed and perhaps you’ll even be brave enough to let the dishes pile up in the sink.
4. Stage a one night black out. Prepare for this in advance with flashlights and board games and snacks. No electricity means no computers or anything electronic.
5. Deal with boredom. Acknowledge boredom but don’t feel responsible for it. As tempting as it is to say something like, “How can you be bored with a whole cupboard of toys and games to play with?” instead say “Ah, so you feel that you have nothing to do.” And then, depending on your child’s age, you can place the responsibility back on him or her by saying, “I’m sure that you can come up with a creative project,” or, “Let’s brainstorm some ideas together.”
6. Fun at home. Along with spending some time outdoors or at indoor activities, fun at-home projects can include cooking, baking or engaging in a family project such as sorting through old family videos.
7. Stay-cationing. If you’re not able to get away with your family for an extended trip, consider playing tourist in your own city and spending the night in a downtown hotel or taking a sightseeing bus to places you typically wouldn’t go.
8. No formal learning. Children need to take a break from formal learning during school breaks. So parents shouldn’t worry about anything too academic. However, there’s nothing wrong with a good game of scrabble or boggle, for example, to stimulate one’s brain anytime of year.
9. No screens period. Since the kids won’t need to use the computer for ‘homework’ assignments, try to designate a specific time of day (4 to 6pm) for example as a ‘no screens’ period. This means no iPad, iPod, computer, cell phone or game console. Reading, writing or putting together a puzzle can be great alternate activities. This is really hard at first but gets easier over time.
10. Reduce stress. If you use this time as an opportunity to unwind, you may feel less stressed and since stress is contagious, everyone benefits when one or more family members are more relaxed.
Sara is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counseling to individuals, couples and families. A parent herself, she is the author of two parenting books, Am I A Normal Parent? and Character Is the Key. Find out more at www.helpmesara.com.
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