Create a Successful Holiday Break with your Kids

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 047 · Duration: 00:11:04

Create a Successful Holiday Break with your Kids

A client recently asked me about the holiday break time and what to do with her kids. She was concerned about all that downtime and the kids’ tendency to want to jump on their computers and play video games. She was worried that the holiday would be spent fighting with the kids over their computer time. A lot of families are dealing with this issue so let’s talk about it.

Create a Successful Holiday Break with your Kids

A couple of weeks off with no structure could be deadly for families. Bored kids turning down any parental ideas and teenagers sleeping into the afternoon and playing video games with their awake time would be a parental nightmare. And yet two weeks off for kids is a great opportunity for them.

The trick is to help your kids to set some goals and build some structure to accomplish those goals. No, every minute doesn’t need to be structured, but some goals and plans can make all the difference in the world.

So essentially we’re trying to accomplish a few things:

  • Use the time productively; both from the need to take care of business piece, and for self-development. People who are good at both of these skills are best at achieving personal happiness and success.
  • Learn planning skills; things don’t happen without planning.
  • We also don’t want the easy distraction of electronic devices to take control of us and our free time.

We want all kids from 7 to 17 to learn and be reinforced with these skills.

Tips for Productivity

So for instance if your child or teen plays a musical instrument this is a great opportunity for them to put some extra time into it and really build their skills, steepen that learning curve, get themselves to a next level. Maybe prepare for a performance of some kind. Maybe it’s an opportunity for them to take out their easel and do some focused artwork if that’s their area of interest. Is there a sport or physical activity for them to improve in, or maybe just get in shape? Some more mechanically inclined kids can use this time to build or create something.

This time can also be a time of reorganization. Kids can go through their rooms and get it in order. Go through the school materials from the first semester file away what needs to be filed, clean off the surfaces and get ready for the next semester. Younger kids or teens who are organizationally challenged will need some parental support to accomplish this.

Then there are things parents can do with their children and teens. How about some outings within your local area? Almost every town has its historical sites, museums, nature and culture.

And then of course, is one of my favorite topics, cooking. It’s never too soon to teach your kids how to cook. If they already cook lets get some new recipes going. If they don’t know how, have them join you in the kitchen for some meal preparation. They can invite friends over and you and they can cook for friends. After all, they’re going to spend their whole lives eating; they may as well learn how to cook all that food that they’re going to need to eat. It’s a lot cheaper, healthier and more fun and delicious if you approach it right. Also, kids are proud of their cooking accomplishments and will eat what they cook, where they’ll turn down the same food if you simply serve it to them.

After all, they’re going to spend their whole lives eating; they may as well learn how to cook all that food that they’re going to need to eat.Click To Tweet

Making a Game Plan

So here is what you can do:

Let your kids know that you’re going to have a vacation planning session.
It’s great if you have a large white board, but at least some big sheets of paper to write ideas and schedules on. Talk about the opportunity to use the vacation time in a positive way. Sure there will need to be some “hanging out with friends” time, and catching up on sleep, but emphasize that you want them to establish some goals and do some positive things for themselves.

Talk about the opportunity to use the vacation time in a positive way.Click To Tweet

Make two or three lists:

  • Things that need to be taken care of such as room reorganization, etc.
  • Things that will be fun and healthy to invest their time and effort in, art, music, physical activity, or building something.
  • Finally, things that can be done together as a family, outings, cooking etc.

Get some things in each category and then how they will be accomplished. Since some things involve their friends and changing circumstances, there will need to be flexibility, but put things in place and update things daily. Make the list a living, evolving thing that you engage with your kids with on a daily basis.

My Challenge to Parents

If kids spend their holiday on the computer playing games and doing social media they’ll go back to school brain dead. If they use their time productively, they will feel fulfilled, proud of themselves and ready for the next semester.

I know in many homes both parents will be working during this time and if you’re a single parent family, you are most likely working all or parts of this time, but limit the amount of time you let electronic devices be your babysitter. Set up expectations and supervision and support for your kids to be productive.

So readers: Let’s commit to teaching our kids to use their time wisely, and let’s show them how much fun it can be AND how rewarding it can be. And remember, like one of my clients once said, raising kids is the ultimate exercise in delayed gratification, so keep this in mind and know it will pay off big time, but it might take a while.

Raising kids is the ultimate exercise in delayed gratificationClick To Tweet

Thanks for tuning in today and special thanks to Stacey for encouraging this important discussion.
Please do feel free to come to my website at and sign up for my weekly newsletter where there is plenty of helpful stuff there right now, and plenty more in the pipeline. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out my new Empowered Parenting Class, and feel free to send the link to someone you know who might benefit. That simple act might be a transformative experience for someone you care about.

And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.

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  1. You sure reacted strongly to this, and you raise the issue of parents setting unreasonably high standards for kids who end up stressed out. Yes, many families can have ridiculously high expectations, wanting their teens to go to ivy league schools so they can get the best jobs. Parents have their own values and there is a lot of variability there, but I agree that kids should not have to be totally stressed and driven. But I stand by my advice. Certainly catching up on some sleep, relaxation, social time and even some computer game time is all fine. We do want our kids to learn to set and accomplish their own goals, not just school goals or parentally mandated chores. So when they do get free time, they have the opportunity to decide what they want for themselves. If we allow our kids to stay up all night playing computer games and they sleep all day, that’s not a good thing. Teenagers feel good with accomplishments yet they do have a tendency to go for short term “feel goods” and rewards. By encouraging personal goal setting, planning and execution, parents offer kids an opportunity to realize their potential as well as the opportunity to develop skill in things that bring them satisfaction and happiness, and that’s huge.
    Yes, there are worse things than our kids sleeping in some. But let’s not set the bar so low that if they aren’t under the influence, under arrest, or pregnant, nothing else matters.

  2. Is that really the battle you want to pick? Be grateful you don’t have the teen next door sneaking out to parties getting knocked up or wasted and having to go the ER or police station! Do you really want a tired, moody teen sulking around the house, bringing the mood down for the entire family, or one peacefully asleep in their room out of everyone’s way? When your toddler goes down for a nap, do you feel the need to jostle them awake so they’re more “productive”? Teens can be exhausting, why on Earth you wouldn’t also take the opportunity to have some time to yourself as well, is beyond me! Sleeping in can be a win-win for both of you!

  3. Sleeping in later is a “parental nightmare”? Are you serious? If they aren’t on drugs, hooking up with risky kids, going to wild drunken parties etc… what’s the problem? Is it really so threatening to you and other parents that your kids might have some time to simply relax and do nothing. Teenagers have their entire adult life to work hard, put their nose in the grind and wake up early and go to bed late. If your teens are doing well in school, and are good kids overall, is a 12:00 pm wake up time really worth the power struggle and breakdown of relationship? Depression is a different story, but research has shown teens usually sleep later. They’re on a different biological clock than adults, why does everything have to be conveniently on your schedule instead of theirs? Yes, everyone wants productive, driven kids, but they most likely already are. Student council, sports practice, school, clubs, part time jobs etc… are already a part of many teen’s lives, so their day is from sunup to sundown. Taking a week or so as a breather doesn’t hurt anyone. How many times do YOU wish you could sleep a little later, or just watch TV, and do so but the next day you’re back at it. It’s a balance. Letting your teens off the hook for a week will be good for them. Many of my peers when I was a teen were so overworked and over stressed, they were on anti-anxiety meds, uppers and energy drinks. It’s really hurtful and disheartening that people like you find it so threatening to let your kids have some time just for them. Think of this angle too, the teen asleep in their room isn’t arguing with you or their siblings, bugging anyone, or doing anything remotely dangerous within the safety of their own bed! They’re safe, and out of your way. Think of it like when they were toddlers: take advantage of some “me time” of your own, and give yourself a break 😉 A sleepy teen is NOT your “worst nightmare”. Try thinking that again on your way to the ER or police dept!

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