It’s that time, isn’t it? The presents have all been opened, the rolls of wrapping paper are back in the closet, the new toys have a few scuff marks—and let’s not even get into the sugar crash from all those cookies and candies! After a year of anticipation (and three manic months of post-Halloween holiday crush), the long-awaited days have come and, all too quickly, gone. Maybe there’s even some disappointment if a child didn’t receive a much-desired gift. I remember one childhood Christmas when I coveted a Raggedy Ann doll…and received an electric blanket, instead! No wonder children get a little melancholy at the end of December and into early January.
During the twinkly days of holiday time, it’s easy to forget that “normal” life is often pretty darn good, too. As winter break winds down, now is a good time to help children ease back into the familiar flow of everyday life.
Begin building some calmer activities into their day: reading a good book together, working on a hobby, doing a puzzle, playing a board game, working on a craft project, or taking a walk in the snow (or the lack thereof!).
It seems that everywhere you turn during the holidays, someone is offering a plateful of yummy goodies—and it would be rude to say no, right? But all these sugary snacks can wreak havoc on kids’ systems, not to mention your own. You don’t have to throw them all out at once, but do start getting everyone back into a healthy eating routine well before school starts again.
If you notice that your children are feeling melancholy, take the opportunity to let them talk about their feelings. Show that you are there to listen (not to judge or tell them how to feel), and that you understand. You can share that they are not alone—lots of kids feel that way when the holidays are over!
One of my favorite things about school vacations was the chance to stay up later than usual and then to sleep in the next morning. Bliss! But if you wait until the first day of school to re-start the routine, that 6 a.m. alarm is going to be a rude surprise. For several days before school starts, begin easing into the regular morning wake-up and breakfast schedule.
The last days of the school break can still be filled with fun activities. Hold a family meeting to choose the things you’d all do together: ice skating, seeing a movie, attending a concert. That will give the kids something to look forward to each day—and give them plenty to talk about when the teacher asks, “What did you do on your winter vacation?”
The holidays are a wonderful “time out of time”—a unique couple of weeks to enjoy freedom and togetherness and special celebrations. But regular life has its beauty, too, and helping kids make the transition between the two can help them calibrate the changes more smoothly.
Happy new year!
Denise Daniels is a Peabody award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert and author who specializes in the social and emotional development of children.