For many parents, having their young children off school and home for long periods of time can be a source of stress and anxiety. This is especially true in families where both parents work and it is difficult to juggle being the primary caregiver alongside work responsibilities, which do not decrease.
In many households, parents just concede that when their children are off school – on break or snow days prevent them from going to school – they are home too. And in an ideal world, this would be fine. But unfortunately, it is not always the case. Often, our obligations to our colleagues and our need to keep our financial situation afloat do not change when our children are off school. We then find ourselves barely keeping our head above water to get through the day.
We often feel overwhelmed when we feel that too much going on in our life is out of our control. So the key to decreasing our anxiety is to get that control back.
So how can parents cope? It is not the children’s fault that they are home. How can we prevent our children from taking the brunt of our stress?
1) Remind yourself that this is vacation time. Not everything needs to be perfect or on schedule. Allow the kids to experience this fun time, too. The rules need not always apply. Remind yourself that it is ok to take a ‘vacation’ from the rules, routine and structure. By changing your expectations, you can also change your behavior and your moods that accompany it. You might actually learn to enjoy this time instead of being stressed by it.
2) Walk Away. If you feel stressed to the point where you do not trust your instincts, walk away. Let’s face it…we have all been pushed to extremes by our children. The combination of hunger, exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed (yes…there is that word again), sometimes we as parents need to recognize our need to regroup. Share the responsibility with your partner. Trade off with them. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a ‘time out’. Take a walk. Take a bath. Count to ten. Go sit in the car and listen to music. Do whatever you need to do to be your best self, for yourself, for your partner, and for your children.
3) Give your children incentives for good behavior. Especially when home for days or weeks at a time, the routine can get stale. Provide good behavior rewards, which can highly motivate them to take on more at home, thereby teaching them responsibility but also helping you out with household chores. Make your children feel useful by giving them odd jobs at home, which are beyond your normal expectations of them. For instance, my children earn a weekly allowance for keeping their rooms neat, helping clear off the table, doing their homework without fuss, bathing themselves without argument, etc. These are all expected on a daily basis. However, it is ok to change it up. Reward them for shoveling the walk, sorting the laundry, or helping chop a salad for dinner. A promise to go to the toy store or a movie or a date with mommy or daddy can do wonders for our kids’ incentives.
4) Try to identify with your children. Remember the times when you were a kid and all you wanted to do was play with your friends, talk on the phone and stay in pajamas all day? Although extremely difficult to do especially while right in the middle of a frustrating moment…This might help decrease your level of annoyance with their behavior.
So with all this being said, we do the best we can. We are not perfect, and there may be moments where we want to wring their gorgeous little necks for doing this or not doing that. On Monday, the first day back after winter break, I for one was very excited to see my children off to school in the morning.
The routine however, was not as disrupted as I had imagined it would be. We purposefully put our children to bed earlier, in the hopes that their wake-up calls on the first day back would not be met with grunts and scowls. All in all, other than asking for 5 more minutes of shut-eye, with the promise of chocolate milk with breakfast to get them to the table, the morning went off without a hitch.
As they left the house and I closed the door behind them, with a deep breath and a sigh, I made my breakfast and I sipped my cup of coffee. I sat down for the first time in 2 weeks, in the quiet. It sounded so good.
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