Spring Break Survival

by Parenting Power

Realistic tips for a week of family togetherness

Some parents love Spring Break: no need to drive kids to activities, kids are home to help with the chores, and it’s a great excuse to “not work” and have fun. Some parents, however, DREAD this time. It means finding time off work, having the kids bugging them all week, finding stuff for the kids to do and dealing with the complaints that they’re the only kids in their classes who are not headed to Mexico or Disneyland.

What if you have decided to go on vacation with your children? We encourage you to be realistic about the experience – travelling with kids can be fun, exhausting, adventurous, hair-raising, frustrating, and memorable...and that’s just in the first day of the trip.

Here are some tips to help you whether you are staying here or getting away.
  • Plan for Sleep
When we take away sleep from kids and adults, they get cranky. This may seem obvious but it is amazing how often it surprises parents. If your kids want to stay up late (or they will because of your schedule), set expectations for naps or sleeping-in. If your son rises predictably at 6:30 am no matter when he goes to sleep, be clear about what bedtime will be from the start, and STICK TO IT!
  • Plan for Real Life
If you are staying home this Spring break, groceries, laundry, dishwashing, etc., all still need to get done. Set yourself up for success by planning when these will happen, and letting kids know the schedule and how they are expected to help (pitching in OR independent play while you take care of it).

If you are going away, real life means that part of your family will not want to go to the Museum of Ear Wax, while others will want to spend the day there. Perhaps you do not want to spend 24/7 at the hotel pool and would like to get out and see some sights. Talk about schedules, working together (or splitting up – one parent gets a free day while the other stays with the kids) and attitudes ahead of time (consequences included).
  • Plan for Meals and Behaviour
Staying home: Will there be play dates, visits to a wave pool or the library? Discuss behaviour expectations and consequences. In addition, there is a good chance that your children cannot/will not want to spend every waking moment together. Schedule quiet times, times for independent play and teach scripts for when your kids need a break: I need some time in my room please, I’ll play with you again in 30 minutes (vs. I hate you, get out of my face!).

Going away: Discuss expectations for behaviour at the restaurants, pools, hotel lobby etc. (Don’t forget those consequences as well). While we are on the topic of restaurants, it is very easy, when your kids eat off of children’s menus, to have children eating cheese and starch at every meal: pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese at lunch, pizza for dinner. If that works for you, great! If not, outline the expectations for the number of fruits/vegetables to be eaten each day, how many sugary treats they can have and whether dessert is a “for sure” thing at each meal. Please schedule down time for your kids. They will need it...you will need it.
  • Technology – can they live without it? Can you?
Getting away from technology can be one of the hardest things to plan nowadays. “Why would I want to?” you ask. That’s up to you. If your goal is to spend family time together OR you want your kids to have some physical exercise so that they don’t drive you batty, set limits up front. If they choose to observe the limits, they can continue to use technology, if not, they’re choosing to go without for the day. Kids learn what they live so if you expect them not to text while talking to you, model that when you are talking to them.

This list could go on forever and we’re happy to help you if you have any questions. One last suggestion would be in the department of consequences.

Consequences need to fit your child and the misbehaviour. Use our language to help you find just the right consequence.
  • I see running and hear shrieking. Your behaviour shows me you are choosing to leave the pool for today and skip it tomorrow. You can try again the next day. I know you are capable.
  • You are choosing to hit your brother – this means that you are choosing to have me help you to control your hands. When you are ready to try again, let me know and I’ll let go
  • You are getting filled up on sweet treats, so you are choosing to skip those tomorrow and fill your body with healthy foods. When you show us you can do that, we’ll go back to a treat once the healthy food has been eaten.

Lastly, if you are travelling this holiday, please be realistic and clear with your kids about airports, car trips, hotels etc. Travelling is not always fun.

Security people may not have a sense of humour. Talk about the rules; what cannot be said out loud in an airport. It might be a good idea to create a “Try to use the bathroom whenever we actually find one” rule. It can also help to pack a change of clothes for every family member in a re sealable freezer bags so that when someone spills a drink, or throws up on you, you will have something to wear (and an extra change of clothes if the airlines lose your luggage). IF your kids packed their own carry-on bags, please check through them for water guns or other “weaponry” that airport security will not appreciate.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful week, here or away. Be realistic and remember... if you make a mistake when your kids misbehave, you will always get another chance to do it right, possibly in the next twenty minutes.

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power