It has officially arrived- holiday season 2019! Is it just me or has this year flown by? This time of year can bring upon feelings of excitement, joy, and love. It can also bring upon feelings of anxiety. Through all the travel, family gatherings, and breaks from school/work, some of our children may experience difficulty.
As a child and adolescent therapist in Washington DC, many of my clients benefit greatly from structure and consistency. When our children are in school, they generally know what their days and weeks look like- wake up around the same time, head to school, go to soccer practice, come home for homework, dinner, followed by bedtime routine. When our children can anticipate what’s coming, they feel safe and secure. Even as adults, we often feel more in control when we have a consistent rhythm to our days.
During this time of the year, our children have two long breaks – Thanksgiving and Winter Break. Don’t get me wrong, time off from school is important for refreshing our little ones’ bodies and minds, but it may lack a consistent routine. To that end, here are some tips to manage the time away from school:
- Limit the amount of unstructured time. Enjoy the mornings with your children, lounging in your pajamas and eating a leisurely breakfast. However, I recommend having one structured activity per day, whether that is a family outing to a fun, interactive museum or a family walk to the local park. We all handle transitions best when we have some sense of a predictable routine.
- Get moving. When our children are in school, they are getting movement whether it’s walking to school, playing at recess, or playing team sports. We know that exercising helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, in addition to a multitude of other benefits. The CDC recommends “children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.”
- Limit screen time. I know the days are long during school breaks, and it is tempting to reach for screens. I recommend trying to limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day.
- Maintain your bedtime routine. As I mentioned above, we want to continue with familiar routines to help ease any anxiety. We also want to be mindful of the transition back to school after the holidays. If our children stick with their usual bedtime routine, it will be one less change when heading back in January.
- Quality time. Take this time to slow down and be present with your children. Enjoy the little moments and set intentions for the new year!
Happy holidays to all of our past, present, and future Sibley Group families!