Maybe it’s just me, but when my kids are off school for Christmas break, it gets plain old WILD at our house!
Something about the combination of the upcoming holiday, the candy and gifts, kids who are getting used to being around each other all day again and the lack of routine results in emotions running high and general craziness all around.
Is there some way to turn this into a positive experience, so that Christmas break becomes less about our kids claiming they’re bored and fighting and more about enjoying intentional time together? I think it’s possible! With a little planning ahead and preparing ourselves for the busyness and high level of noise and chaos, we can actually enjoy Christmas break this year without feeling like Mom and Dad from the Christmas song who “can hardly wait for school to start again”!
Here are three sanity-saving tips for handling high emotions when school’s out for Christmas break:
1. Have a basic routine for your day during break. Include some chores and tasks that your kids can do to help out. I make a simple list by day of the week (our break is a little over 2 weeks) and just say “This is what we need to do on (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc). Everyone gets to help with something! Raise your hand if you want to (sweep the floor, vacuum, wipe the toilets).” It’s not that my kids don’t help while they’re in school; it’s just not as consistent.
Expect complaining but hold firm! You’re likely not asking them to do backbreaking work. You can do this whether you are a stay-at-home mom, working parent or work-at-home mom. It will make the day go smoother at whatever time of day you can work in these basic routines. Also, it’s great if you can include in your routine a general outline for the day. Here’s how I plan things out as a work-at- home mom. In the morning, we have breakfast, two-minute tidy of their rooms, read, play and run errands. In the afternoon, during naptime for the younger two, I work and the older kids read or listen to music. After naps, we play or craft, clean and then prep supper. Kids are used to a routine in school and they thrive on it. When they’re out of that, it becomes easier for them to start complaining and fighting and claiming to be bored.
It’s not that kids shouldn’t have downtime, but just that we as parents should respect the fact that our kids feel secure in knowing what to expect next. Each day doesn’t have to be scheduled by the hour, but having a general flow helps the mood and tone of our households.
2. Plan some craft or activity ideas ahead of time to give kids something to keep their hands and minds busy. I love just letting my kids have free time on Christmas break…maybe a bit too much. However, after the newness of being home on break wears off (in our house it’s after about 3 hours) I find myself wishing I had thought of some fun things for us to do together so that we can learn creativity and teamwork rather than bouncing off the walls!
This year, I’ve created a list of very simple winter crafts and activities that can be done with little or no prep and cost. If we can have some ideas ready for our kids when they are starting to bicker or need a break from each other, it gives them something positive to pour their energy into, especially if we are stuck inside!
Here are the 4 team-building activities I’ll be prepared with this year:
1. Making a fort out of blankets and chairs and then “camping” in it with flashlights, books and movies.
2. Making “magic sand” by mixing an 8:1 ratio of baby oatmeal cereal (you can also use flour) and coconut oil and then playing with it over a large tarp in the kitchen. This is fun for older kids too!
3. Balloon Tennis – this could prove to be hilarious!
4. Grabbing a spare piece of pine or other wood that is longer than it is wide (think a 1×2 that’s a few feet long) and placing it on the living room floor, pretending it is a balance beam (with socks on to avoid slivers). If you can have one for each kid, and have them do some fun tricks, that’s a bonus!
These are the alone-time activities I’ll be prepared with this year:
1. Putting dried beans on a large cookie sheet and letting kids drive their trucks and tractors through them or bury their Little People. This works to win them over every. single. time.
2. Q-tip painting, which is done by using q-tips and washable paints to make designs on printer paper or the inside of paper bags or whatever you have around the house! If you have really little ones, you can squeeze some paint inside a gallon size plastic bag, tape it shut to the table with painter’s tape and let them push it around with their fingers! See what I mean in this blog post.
3. Pulling out old puzzles that we haven’t done in ages and doing them at the table.
4. Reading time and listening to audiobooks.
There are also some great ideas in this blog post, 20 Inside Activities for High Energy Kids
3. Weave in Biblical conversations in times of stress or meltdowns. No matter what, someone will fight, somebody will be jealous of another sibling’s gift and kids will be emotionally charged simply because of the busyness of the season (because you’ll probably have things you need to do too).
When my kids struggle with selfishness or coveting another child’s toy, I often just remove them from the situation and have them come and sit by me (I call it tomato staking, a term from a parenting book I read long ago). Then when they’ve calmed down, we talk about contentment (Luke 12:15, Hebrews 13:5), finding joy in another’s joy (Romans 12:15-16) and being kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). Then I’ll excuse them to go and play again if they have calmed down and seem to understand what I’m asking of them.
This isn’t a perfect system of course, but it’s something parents have to do more often during this time of year when emotions are high and the entitlement mentality rears its ugly head.
Being intentional and planning ahead a bit can really help us as parents to stay calm amidst the chaos of the Christmas season. Of course, we shouldn’t be afraid to excuse ourselves for a cup of coffee or tea while letting the kids watch Minno every once in a while! But when we realize what a blessing this time at home can be and how we can use it to make memories and do things we don’t normally get the chance to do with our school-age kids, it makes our efforts seem less of a burden and more of an opportunity.