School breaks, especially over the holidays, can be fun and challenging. It’s nice to have a change of pace, but this can also create disruption, which we know can be tough for lots of kids (and adults). Changes in routine, breaks from social activities and supports, and overabundance of unscheduled time can sometimes lead to family stress. Here are some family-centered ways to infuse holiday breaks with family fun, self-care, and relationship-building activities.
Opportunities for self-care. Using part of your family’s school break time for recreation and relaxation shows your family members the importance of taking care of oneself. There are many wonderful family self-care activities: a family walk, meditation together, taking a free online family yoga class, giving each other at home spa treatments or mani-pedis, trading back-rubs- or any other activities that feel relaxing and restorative.
Planned and unplanned playfulness. Spending time together as a family doing things that everyone enjoys reduces stress and negative-thinking and can create lasting memories. Some of the best family fun is spontaneous — a bit of playfulness and creativity can even make chores fun. Other types of family fun require a bit of planning, but are worth the effort. Board games, cooking together, family talent shows, picnics, sing-alongs, star-gazing, puzzles, dress-up, bowling — or any other activities that your family would enjoy together.
Deepening family connections. Family time offers opportunities to get to know each other better, and to appreciate, support, and care for one another. A great way to do this is to have everyone write down questions for a family member to answer (or use these conversation cards). Place these questions in a fish bowl, and take turns picking one to answer. This is a fun way to deepen dinnertime conversations. Another idea is to start or end the day with a round-robin sharing of things that you appreciate about one another. You can also create a family challenge board where family members track caring and supportive things they’ve done for each other. Or volunteer together as a family picking up neighborhood trash, organizing at a local food shelter, or raising money for an organization that is important to you. All of these activities strengthen family bonds and values, with the added benefits of shared altruism.
Expanding your horizons.
Family time can be an opportunity to learn, explore, and see or do something new. Free community events may introduce your family to diverse cultures, foods, and traditions. A trip to a museum can give the family interesting scientific or artistic ideas to experience and think about — check out your local library to see if they offer free passes to museums during school breaks. A scavenger hunt can help get the family moving and improve everyone’s orienteering skills. Classes at a local art studio or home projects store can be a fun source of creative skill-building.
Sometimes everyone is so tired by the time a school break happens – even when it’s just a regular weekend – that it is hard to have the bandwidth to schedule and plan family time. But with a small bit of advance planning — or some quick creative improvisation — you can return to regular school and work routines feeling that you were able to do some positive things during your family time together, to the benefit of everyone.