12 Tips for Winter Break: Set Some Structure

This month I’m sharing 12 Tips to help parents manage behaviors (and still have fun!) over winter break!

Winter break gives you a lot of unstructured time.

For kids and teens who run a little more anxious or overwhelmed, that unstructured time can lead to stress related behaviors. Yes, there’s a lot of fun to be had with family and presents and dinners and toys… and there’s a lot of potential for overwhelm.

When your kid is overwhelmed and acting out, it can feel like they’re ruining the holidays.

And you maybe feel bad for even thinking that… but the truth is, we put a lot of time and energy into making winter break and winter holidays fun. When things don’t go according to plan, or when we have our little one throwing a huge tantrum in front of your whole extended family, it can feel overwhelming for you as well!

How do we help with this?

We set up a framework for winter break that’s easy for everyone to follow.

Tip 1: Prepare

As a child behavior therapist, I bet you’re not surprised to know my top tip for parents is to PREPARE. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can set a great plan for winter break. Prep your schedule for these next two weeks - what’s going to happen and when? Go through this schedule with your kids. Figure out what time will be structure and what time will be unstructured. And, prepare your expectations and time management strategies…

Tip 2: Set Clear Expectations

When you have expectations for your child’s behavior, it’s important to set your kid up for success. Some parents tell me they want to “test” their kids - which I get. But at the same time, why not coach your kid rather than test them. There will be plenty of opportunities to see how they handle things - use winter break as a time to focus on the positives, and really praise their positive choices.

If you have an expectation about screen time (which is probably different over break than during the school year), talk through that with your kids and get their take. If bedtime or curfew is later - or if it’s not - walk through that decision making process with your kids and teens.

Tip 3: Time Management

Manage your time well. Focus on structured time and unstructured time. Time for chores and time for fun. Time at home and time outside. There’s SO MUCH TIME in the day and yet, somehow, winter break ends up going a lot faster than weeks during the school year. So make sure to get the most time possible with your kids, and make it really quality time.

Curious to hear more? Kelsey Torgerson, MSW, LCSW specializes and child anger management and anxiety therapy for teens. She helps kids, teens and college students from age 4 on up in St. Louis, MO. Her office is located in Clayton. Reach out via kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com to hear more!