Many parents dread when their young children go on holiday breaks from school, and I get it. What is supposed to be a fun and exciting time together can quickly devolve into a noisy, chaotic experience that feels like the opposite of family bonding.
By the time you get into the home stretch of those last few days before your kids go back to school and you get back to your normally routine, you may even feel like it’s already a lost cause.
That outcome isn’t inevitable, however. It’s totally possible to make the most out of the remaining family time you have left so you can actually feel like you had some real quality time together. You just need to be a little more intentional.
Therapist and attachment expert Eli Harwood, who specializes in the art of connecting and healing, shared some helpful tips you can put to good use over this coming weekend.
4 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Last Few Days Off With Your Kids
1. Work on your own attitude.
Harwood says, “I am letting go of my natural inclination to continue to expect myself to work as hard as I normally work. Or meet all the needs of everybody in the world outside of my family,” and we love that for her!
Many parents feel the need to go above and beyond for everyone. And as parents, our own parents may be screaming into our ears about what we should do this holiday season. It’s all too easy to feel pressured to accommodate others when your family has their own needs — so don’t. It’s not possible to make everyone happy, and guess what? That’s okay!
Remind yourself that other people’s unrealistic expectations have nothing to do with you. Let the focus be on what makes your family happy, and slowly but surely you may find a change in your own attitude!
2. Create a schedule — but stay flexible.
When the holiday season rolls around everything can become super unpredictable. According to Katie Gerten, “Unexpected changes introduce uncertainty in our children’s world — inducing stress.”
So, how can we reduce their stress? By allowing children to know what comes next, “They’ll feel more in control, which can help reduce their anxiety,” writes Youth Dynamics. Try creating a schedule for your child, but keep it realistic. “Become organized with your activities”, says Harwood.
And yes, things won’t happen exactly as planned. Truthfully, you may end up switching things up or not following the schedule perfectly. But as Harwood says, “It will help keep the anxiety a notch or two lower,” and let’s be real — we’ll take what we can get!
3. Prioritize your own joy.
Parents, please listen to Harwood when she says putting yourself first is also important. Don’t believe her? Then let me ask you a question.
Have you ever gone to a family event and had that one parent who always seemed to be snapping at their children? You know, the parent that runs around trying their absolute best to make sure everything is perfect? Perhaps this is you or someone you know!
Well, the cause of this snappiness often occurs when you don’t put yourself first!
Unsurprisingly, it’s easy to get snappy when your needs aren’t being met.
Anthropologist Matthew Legge notes that factors that could make you snap include being mentally exhausted. So, remember, take time for yourself so you can mentally recharge. And don’t forget, “Me Time” doesn’t make you a horrible parent, it makes you human.
Joanette Claridge-Weisse, MD, explains that self-care increases your empathy and tolerance toward your kids. So, cook, bake, and hang out with your loved ones! Do whatever it is that brings you happiness and prevents you from having a full-blown meltdown, there’s no judgment here!
4. Stay present.
Practicing what she preaches, Harwood intends to be on her phone a lot less this holiday break! And when we reflect on our childhood, it makes so much sense. Honestly, I don’t remember most of the stuff I got for Christmas, but I do remember my mom being there when I opened my gifts.
And when I reflect on things, I don’t remember what our Christmas tree decorations looked like or the exact steps my grandmother took to make her famous chocolate pudding cake — but I do remember the fun we had and the laughs we shared!
So, parents don’t forget to be present during this holiday break and have fun. Your children will love and appreciate you for it!
Remember No Amount Of Holiday “Magic” Makes Up For Real Connection
The greatest gift you can give your children involves connection, and that can happen at any time of the year.
As Sandi Schwartz of the Gottman Institute reminds us, “Science supports the idea that warmth and affection expressed by parents resulted in life-long positive outcomes for those children.”
These outcomes include:
- Improved self-esteem
- Academic performance
- Fewer psychological issues
- Fewer behavioral problems
But that’s not all! Schwartz notes that a 2010 study of participants ranging in age from infancy to their 30s found that a high level of parental affection towards children led to happier, more resilient, and less anxious adults.
So, hug your child and kiss them, let them know how much you love them, and remember that no amount of perfection that comes at the cost of your peace beats connecting with your child and making fond memories that will last a lifetime.
Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.