Friday, December 17, 2021

Ten Tips to a Successful Winter Break (I Hope)

I am about to embark on three weeks off with my children, all three of them.  

Our school district offers a longer break than most, and it's easy to sink into life away from school, but I have to keep at the forefront of my mind that my kids need to be ready to get back to a routine in January.

It was hard enough heading back to school and work after one week off at Thanksgiving (hello, getting to work at the exact minute I need to be there...whoops). 

So, these tips are as much for me as for anyone else.  

1. Keep a reasonable bedtime routine. This is the easiest routine to break when none of us has to be a functional human in the morning. My husband will remind me that he still has to go to work, and that will help tremendously, but I need to remember that getting lax around bedtime doesn't help any of us.

2. Limit the treats. Ugh. As with the first tip, this applies to me, as much as to my kids.  Once the baking goes into full effect next week, our access to delicious treats will double, triple...quadruple. I need to remember that none of us benefits from mass quantities of sugar.  

3. Underplan.  My whole family is exhausted from the demands of the first half of the school year. This was as close to a return to normalcy as we may get, and we definitely packed our calendar. Now, we need to take the opportunity nothing. Not everyone has this opportunity. My oldest wants to build endless World War II Lego scenes (it's a whole thing), and my middle one just wants to bake and watch holiday movies. The toddler wants to race cars and be held.  That's the bulk of my holiday plans for them.

4. Say No to tech based homework. I realize that this may not apply to everyone, but I'm not enforcing the school's request to do 20 minutes a day for two separate programs for each day of break - 100 minutes a week?? No, thank you. 

5. Read lots of books. I mean, it's not shocking that I want to read lots of books, as I am a total word nerd who loves immersing myself into different worlds. Cozy winter days (yes, even the Bay Area has cozy, cold winter days) call for coco and cuddles on the couch with good books. Bonus: this actually serves the purpose of some of the homework elementary teachers call for, but in a different package that feels less like homework.

6. Keep a daily routine. This applies in summer, as well. I'm going to try to hit our rhythm from day one this year with a dependable routine. For us, this will likely look like breakfast, chores, any out-of-the-house activities, lunch and a baking show, quiet time (a long winter's nap for the toddler...maybe a workout for me), tea time, and then a normal family dinner time routine after my husband gets home. My kiddos appreciate structure, and it's largely up to me to at least create the scaffolding of a daily routine.

7. Listen to the kids. All of the above aside, the kids will let me know what works and what doesn't. I'm hoping that I've taken into account their fondest school year desires (MORE LEGO TIME, PLEASE) and added them into the vacation days, but I know there will be something else I need to honor. Soccer in the park? Sure. Long walks with the dog? Let's make it happen.

8. Remember the small magic. I find it all too easy to get caught up in making the holiday season magic (that's a whole thing, too), and I have to remember that the tiny pieces of magic are not so tiny to my kids. The days of baking. The cheesy holiday movies. The lights on the mantle. All of those, perhaps even more than the presents, make this time of year special for my family.

9. Take time for myself. Overstimulation and the desire to keep my kids entertained and engaged can sometimes come at the expense of the quiet time I also need. We have all been overwhelmed and stressed, and I need to remember myself as we get some relief from a hard season.

10. Close out the holidays before we head back. We will have two weeks of break after Christmas, which gives us time to set our lives back to "normal." Fall is our hard season and then we head straight on into the holidays.  In January, we can catch our breath, and if we start the new year with a tidied home, solid routines, and rested minds and bodies, I'm hoping we will set ourselves up for success.

So, there we go, a list of goals for myself - and maybe for others - to help make these next few weeks feel awesome!

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