In a perfect world, the holidays are a time for happy family gatherings, shared meals
and visits with extended family. In reality, we don't always get the perfect Hallmark moments. All this family togetherness can cause tension and frayed nerves. Teens dread spending hours with rarely seen relatives and little ones feel out of sorts because they are off their schedule.
So, what can we do?
The secret isn’t in the planning… it’s in the communication before the planning!
Parents and kids often have very different ideas of how to spend their break, which leads to frustration on all sides. No matter what the grand plan is for your family, there are strategies you can use to reduce the stress.
Step 1: Communicate
Ask your kids what they are looking forward to doing during their break. It’s important to take their desires and needs into consideration. Do they have plans with their friends? Are they looking forward to extra sleep each morning? It’s possible they have homework or school projects to work on, too! Have a family meeting and let everyone share their thoughts.
Listening to their ideas prior to laying out your expectations will engage them in the conversation early, give you insight into their ideasand make them feel like you want to partner with them so everyone enjoys the break from school.
Step 2: Share your vision
Talk with your family about what is important to you this holiday season. Maybe it’s visits to relatives’ homes or continuing a tradition (i.e., a trip to the holiday light display or baking cookies together).
Step 3: Negotiate
Yes, I said it, be willing to negotiate! Family visits may be a highlight for you, but your kids may feel awkward spending time with rarely seen relatives. You may want to spend the entire break with your kids, but they may want time to spend with their friends. Listen to each other’s “winter break bucket list” and work together to find a way to check off at least a few of each person’s items.
Step 4: Empower
Provide your kids with steps to help them feel more comfortable during visits with relatives they rarely see or are newly introduced to. How? …
Role play. Let kids practice introducing themselves and teach them to mention information that will help make the introduction smoother. For example, your child can say: “Hi, I’m Sam. I am Sue and Bill’s middle kid.” This allows the other person to find a common link.
Find a common interest. This can be difficult when talking to a relative that a child doesn’t know well. When you introduce your child to an adult, be sure to share something that they have in common, "Uncle Jerry, this is Kyle. Kyle, your uncle is the one who helped me learn how to play the piano, and now I'm teaching you!"
Give conversation starters. Helping your children figure out what to talk about helps! Perhaps they can ask Grandpa what school was like when he was little or how Aunt Gwen learned to bake your child's favorite apple pie. Talking about hobbies such as fishing, building model helicopters or their favorite book to read helps children participate in conversations.
Foster the relationship. Help your child build their relationship with the relatives they visited. Perhaps your child can draw pictures for Great Grandma’s refrigerator or Uncle Jim can teach your child to build model planes. They can keep in touch by email, texting, Skype or social media. These are great ways to bridge the generation gap and stay in touch.
Remember, this is your child’s time off from the rigors of school. They deserve some down time to relax and unwind. Crafts, games and puzzles are great items to have available for some fun family time indoors. Of course, making snowmen or sledding is fun family time too! If everyone gets to choose an activity or two, your entire family will enjoy the time off!
Have a wonderful winter break and many great family moments!
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