I don’t know what to do with my kids for the winter break.
I have two active girls, aged 7 and 4. I have a lot of baking and wrapping and, well, the usual for these holidays. I’m usually good to put the kids in front of the TV, but they’ve seen all the holiday movies already. Plus, we’re traveling to visit family out of state and I just don’t know how to keep my kids entertained while we’re there. And, worst of all, the DVD player in the van is out. How can I survive this Christmas season?
You are not alone. Many parents have the same anxieties. And let me assure you that the answer is simple! Ready?
Stop entertaining your children.
You see, you are trying to solve a problem that only your children can solve. The problem is “entertaining your children.” But that’s not your problem. It's theirs. Your children are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves. You just need to step aside and let them figure out how to do it.
“But they bug me and hound me and get underfoot...” you might exclaim. Yes, they do. And they do that because as a very loving and well-intentioned parent, you have spent the past seven years giving them things so they’ll be entertained. But your generosity has created a monster I like to call the “attention addict.” Don’t worry, in just a couple of weeks your children will be entertaining themselves.
Here’s how to do it.
First, unplug the TV and hide all the electronic games your children have. Change the log-ins on the computer so they cannot log on. This is just for the holidays. You can gradually add some TV and electronics time after the holidays (but they get to use these items only after their homework and chores are complete).
Let your children know that this holiday will be spent engaging with each other and the family/friends you’ll be visiting. Dust off some of your favorite CDs and enjoy singing in the car or discussing the latest news, etc.
Allow the children to bring books, toys and games to play with during the drive and while they’re visiting family. But DO NOT pack these, your children will choose what they’ll bring (you may have to have a limit, say five items).
During the drive, if it’s time for you and your husband to talk uninterrupted, by all means let the kids know that they need to read or entertain themselves and have that conversation (of course, keeping in mind that they can hear you).
Second, when they come to you saying “I’m bored” simply say, “Find something to do away from this kitchen/wrapping station/adult conversation or I’ll find something for you.”
And when they come back (and yes, they will come back), give them a chore. Maybe they can organize all the bows by color and put them in baggies. Ask your relative if there is a shelf in the pantry that needs organizing. I’ll bet the kitchen floor could use a good sweep or how about those bathtubs? Could they use a good scrubbing? Of course, there’s always my favorite: dusting the baseboards!
Once your children get the message that you will no longer be their “Julie McCoy” (uh, that’s the cruise director on the "Love Boat" ... I’m dating myself here), they will figure out how to entertain themselves. And that is a wonderful gift to give children; the freedom to use their imagination, time to wonder, ponder, and imagine.
Let me know how it goes!