How To Keep Yourself & Your Kids Sane During Holiday Breaks

This is a guest blog post by Hydaway ambassador Zelphia Peterson. Follow her on Instagram @z_claire29.

That time of year is rolling around again, where the kids are off of school, the house is full of sugary goodness, everything is merry and bright…and everyone is about to go absolutely stark raving mad.

Well, maybe not, but some days it can feel like it! Whether you celebrate or not, the midwinter holiday season and breaks from school can get hectic for anyone. I’ll be sharing some tips for how my family and others that I know of have managed the crazy a little bit, and make sure that everyone survives mostly mentally intact. Note: I am NOT a parent, but I was a nanny for 3 years. So some of this is what I did as a nanny, and some of this is how my family did things growing up.

Nap time.

Doesn’t matter if your kids are 2 or 22. This was enforced at our house, especially when we were being crazy. When we got older, it was less of a nap time and more of a quiet/rest time in our rooms (without electronics). Break out the books and coloring pages, and enjoy two hours of relative peace and quiet. This works best if it takes place after suggestion #2, which is…

Require one physical activity per day.

This can be sledding, ice skating, going to the park, bike rides, skiiing, and indoor gym or playground day…something that your family enjoys and will likely require little supervision from parents. My sister and I would amuse ourselves for hours in the front yard, making snow forts with the big piles of snow the plows would push up to our house. When we got a little older, she would drop us off at the local ski hill, which had an all day pass for $10 on Mondays. For younger kids, indoor playgrounds or trampoline gyms are more popular than ever, and are a great way to burn off some energy.

Make cleaning a game.

I don’t know about you, but our house gets trashed around the holidays. Cleaning up that mess is just about the last thing kids or adults want to do amidst meal prep, present wrapping, and hosting. But parents, this shouldn’t be something you have to do alone! Especially if your kids are at an age where they can reasonably be expected to complete tasks (most families I’ve talked to say aged 6-8). Remember that you’ve got some great helping hands, provided they’re properly motivated.

One thing my parents did was create a list of all the extra chores they wanted done around the house. Then for a certain number of extra chores we completed, we would “unlock” a prize or a treat. So maybe for 5 chores, we would get to watch a movie that afternoon (rare in our house). For 10 chores, we could have a coffee date with our friends, paid for by mom (a VERY big deal when we were 12). For 15 or 20, we could go shopping and pick out a few new pieces of clothing. You get the idea. Whatever fits your family, and your kids. Most years, a LOT of extra cleaning got done!

Spend technology – free time together every night.

There was one year we played the game of Life every night for a week, but this can be making a new recipe, a puzzle, or even driving around to look at holiday lights. Lock all the cellphones in a drawer, put the iPads above the cupboards, and unplug the laptops. Make sure everyone gets a choice in what you’re doing, or maybe have kids choose that night’s activity from a pre-approved list. That gives everyone something to look forward to and can help get some good quality time in for your family. One of of our family’s traditions was to start a very complicated puzzle every New Year’s Eve and see if we could finish it before midnight. That was great at keeping everyone occupied, especially as we got older!

Plan, plan, plan.

I am a planner, 100%. But even if you’re not a semi-compulsive planner, having an idea of what you want your days to look like can be invaluable. If there are places you want to go or things you want to accomplish, make a plan for it. Schedule a PJ and movie day and have popcorn for lunch. Check for shows at your local theater, and take the family to your favorite musical. See if your local state park has any outdoor programs, and mark those on the calendar. See if your library or community center has a craft day where kids make make and take home a craft.

Plan a day to be “santa’s elves”, and clean houses or shovel driveways for your neighbors. If you’re a baker, have a baking day and distribute the resulting goodies liberally to friends and family. Ask local charities what help they may need before, during, and after the holidays, and show the kids how to serve in their community. Take an overnight trip to a local hotel with a pool, order a pizza, and have a pool party. Extended time with your family can be frustrating at times, but it is valuable time that you will never get back. Do your best to get ideas down on paper and go for it!

Bonus tip for parents:

Schedule some alone time! If you can, have the kids sleep over at grandmas or a friend’s, and take a night for yourselves. It doesn’t have to be as fancy a massage or day at the spa – you might just want a nap in your own bed or a chance to grocery shop uninterrupted. Get outside of your normal routine and recharge a little bit. If you have a spouse, take the time to invest in your relationship and reconnect after all the crazy holiday madness.

Most importantly, enjoy this time as a family! It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of it all, but remember that this time with your children becomes more and more precious as they grow each year. Use the upcoming holiday breaks to get to know your kids as humans and just hang out with them. You’ll thank yourself later. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season!

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