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Holiday time with the family

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Remaining sane during the children's holiday break It's holiday time again and that means that the kids are home from school for at least a week or so. This leaves many parents scrambling to find ideas on how to occupy their rambunctious children. In the beginning of the winter break from school, I love that my kids are home for the first few days. It gives us time to bond since I am a working mom, but by day five, I am ready to pull my hair out. Do you feel the same way? It's not because I don't love my children, because I do. It is because we are both out of our daily routines.

Adults and children need daily structure to maintain sanity. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives. As this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can tackle larger changes. Structure can be serious or fun. Whatever the case may be, it is the structure that helps the whole family system to work together to create a peaceful home environment. Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. We all know what comes next, we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around. Kids learn the concept of "looking forward" to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule.

So, my gift to you this year is a list of activities that you can implement with your children while they are home for the holidays. Creating such structure will help everyone enjoy time together.

* Family game night. Spend at least one night during the holidays with the TV off and the family huddled together to play a favorite game. You may play cards, bingo or any other family favorite. Consider continuing this practice throughout the year and designate at least one night per week as family game night. * Go for a walk. After eating rich holiday foods, taking a walk provides not only time together but a great way to get some exercise. * Movie night. Rent a movie or watch a TV holiday special, pop some popcorn, and kick back for some family fun. Like game night, this may be something you’d like to continue throughout the year as a way to spend time together. * Play outdoors together. You can ride bikes, play ball, or go for a hike. It’ll give the entire family some fresh air, exercise and great fun. * Go shopping. Hang out together while shopping at the after Christmas sales. * Cook together. Parents and kids can do the holiday baking and food preparation together. Even the youngest children can wash vegetables, set the table, or ice cookies. * Spend some one-on-one time with each child if you have more than one. Spending time alone provides time to bond with the child and helps him gain a sense of belonging and feeling of importance. It also provides an opportunity for the two of you to get to know each other better. * Since grandparents and older family members usually visit during the holidays, take time to share family customs and tell stories about past generations. Families build strength when they share family customs and traditions give family members a sense of belonging, and they strengthen values and beliefs. Research shows that families who spend time together are strong families.

They communicate better and share a sense of belonging. So, turn off the cell phones, and begin the process of learning to bond with your family this holiday season. Practicing this during the holidays can help you carry it through all year long. Have a wonderful holiday season.

Dr. Sue



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