UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The holiday season brings about a great deal of hustle and bustle – the shopping, the traveling, the visiting, the decorating, baking, celebrations, parties, plays, crafts. For many families the routine is even more stressed by the fact that the child care center is closed, school is on hold and the kids are home.
“Accept that the family will be busier than usual, your children will be home all day, and plan for it,” said Linda Duerr, director of the Child Development Laboratory at Penn State.
See the season through your children’s eyes to gain their perspective, said Duerr. “Is all this running around really fun for your children? Three-year-old children tend not to like crowded department stores. Is a formal dinner really what your 4-year-old daughter wants to do and are you going to have fun if she joins you?”
Be aware of your child’s school or program requirements for the holiday break. Are they expected to write a book report or bring in a “show and tell” item on their return? Use this extra time together to enrich your child’s literacy by reading stories to them.
Don’t wait until just before bed. Do this in the middle of the day, by the fire, under the tree. Take advantage of every opportunity to read with your children, said Duerr. It is the way they learn to read and value literature.
“Children have a harder time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns than adults so stick to the usual bed time,” said Duerr. “This affords the child needed rest and gives you the time to do the things you need to accomplish without them. It also maintains the normal schedule and that is the best preparation for going back to school and day care.”
Treat this time as a gift rather than a nuisance, and do things together, said Duerr. Most communities offer many wonderful activities during the holiday seasons for families. Take advantage of these activities.
Help each other to go back to the “real world” of work, school, child care, said Duerr. Remind children of the good things about returning to work and school, such as seeing friends again or telling teachers about the experience.
“Remember that adults are models of how to approach work and responsibilities. If we constantly lament the drudgery of returning to classes, the office, teaching, we are showing them that work is merely a chore. Try to be a role model by showing the pride you take in our work, whatever it may be,” said Duerr.