What your kids need from you these holidays
We are making our way rapidly towards the end of a busy year. Our minds are a juggle of Christmas, parties and end-of-school/kinder milestones. Not to mention figuring out school holiday care and finishing up work commitments. On the back of a whirlwind year, it would be easy keep up the pace until well after New Year.
Yet, a change of pace is exactly what our kids need.
As parents, life can ask a lot from us and we often feel stretched thin. Although it’s easy to get swept along in the ‘busyness’ of this time of year, I believe that, for our kids (and for us), these next few months need to be grounded in rest and recovery.
Athletes understand they need to allow their bodies rest, because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts. It’s the same for children.
The learning that will greet them next year is going to be just as challenging as it was this year, if not more so. By helping and encouraging our kids to slow right down, they will better integrate the learnings gained from the year and be better prepared for what’s to come.
Here are 4 simple ideas to ground your holidays in a quieter rhythm.
- Don’t over schedule
Research shows that when our energy is low, our defences or feelings of being able to cope reduce too. Kids with low coping reserves require more support from us as parents, which we often don’t have the space or energy to give. Set some specific ‘at home’ time in your calendar and stick to it. This is time to decompress and fill those energy tanks back up by doing things as a family. Think board games, movie nights with popcorn, or reading a story each night as a family.
- Turn off the screens
Although it can be tempting to expand kids’ screen time during the holidays, try and stick to the limits you set during school term time. A certain amount of screen time is just fine, but overdo it and you may start to find that your kids’ behaviour becomes more challenging. Children’s brains need to work harder to keep up with the pace of sensory input that come from screens, which is the equivalent to their brains working in a higher gear. This drains your kids’ energy and lowers their coping ability, meaning what works as a convenient distraction in the short-term could cause problems later on. This list of screen-free activities and these responses to the phrase “I’m bored” offer a few tech-free alternatives.
- Make a ‘family bucket list’
In my experience, families function best when each member (adults and kids alike) feels a strong sense of belonging. Carving out regular activities that you can achieve together adds stitches to the fabric of belonging. Spend a night compiling a list of things you want to do as a family over your holidays. Think simple and easy, such as making eggnog, attending fireworks or carols, a walk on the beach, fruit picking, and visiting family and friends. Just make sure the level and type of activities don’t drain any of you – choose things that give you energy. These ‘bucket-list’ activities provide an anchoring point across the holidays and a sense of shared experiences, which ultimately builds trust and security within your family. At the end of the holidays, look back on what you’ve ticked off your bucket list and have a chat about what might make the list for the next school holidays.
- Keep exercise and play top priority
As you know, kids have heaps of energy. Find daily ways to get your kids out in nature. Go for a bike ride, climb a tree, throw a ball around, and generally allow them to discharge all that excess energy. Children learn their range of motion, balance, muscle strength, coordination, and endurance through play. The role of active play has been established not just as a part of learning, but as the basis for overall healthy social and emotional development. All of these skills are integral in another year of learning, so making space to invest in them through play is well worth the investment of time.
By embracing these ideas, you will increase the levels of connectedness your kids feel to you and your family and allow your children to return to school feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. You never know, you may even enjoy the holidays more yourself!
Thayer, R. E. (1996). The origin of everyday moods: Managing energy, tension, and stress. New York: Oxford University Press.
Parent, J., Sanders, W., & Forehand, R. (2016). ‘Youth screen time and behavioral health problems: The role of sleep duration and disturbances’. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 37(4): 277-284.
Grillon, C., Quispe-Escudero, D., Mathur, A., & Ernst, M. (2015). ‘Mental fatigue impairs emotion regulation’. Emotion, 15(3): 383-389. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000058Megan Tuohey is a mother of two boys and a Melbourne-based consultant and relationship coach. You can find more of her writing at www.megantuohey.com This article is about Wellbeing
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