Winter Break: Limiting Stress, Prioritizing Mental Health, and Setting Goals for the New Year

Winter break has arrived in all of its chaotic splendor! You and your children have about two weeks to celebrate multiple holidays, travel, spend time with family and friends, catch up on all the things you have been putting off all fall, and, hopefully, get some rest. That is a lot to pack into a couple of weeks!

As parents, we also want to take into consideration how to prevent learning loss while out of school and how to minimize anxiety for your student in this generally unstructured time of the year. It is quite the mental load to add to the already busy season.

The perfect winter break is a balance of recharging and maximized fun. So how do you strike that balance and help your student through the holidays? We have a few suggestions for helping your students make the most of this break so they can embrace the new year with a fresh perspective and attitude.

How Do I Keep My Child Engage During Winter Break?

Incorporating learning into your winter break activities is an easy place to start. Every activity can be a teachable moment whether it is exploring organizational concepts while building those new Lego sets or working on reading with a few minutes of sharing a book together each day. A few minutes a day can easily equal a whole book by the end of the winter break.

You can also lighten your workload a bit by engaging your child in the planning process as well. Engage them in some creative thinking simply by asking them to find ways to incorporate learning in some of the things you have planned. Making a simple scavenger hunt around your yard or neighborhood for problem solving practice or exploring some math while making a cookie recipe can take simple activities and make them learning-focused winter break fun.

How Do You Help Your Child Maintain Strong Mental Health During The Holidays?

Making learning fun is one of the simpler tasks, but it also helps with the bigger task of managing mental health during winter break. The holidays can take quite a toll on anyone’s mental health, but for kids, losing the structure of their school schedule and having it replaced with a busier than average, unfamiliar schedule can create so much stress and anxiety. One way to promote better mental health during winter break is to find the fun in simpler tasks like the ones we mentioned as learning opportunities.

Beyond simple, minimal-stress activities, having downtime is an important winter break task for mental health management. The break part of the term winter break acknowledges that it is a period of rest for students. Making sure that they have time to decompress between holiday celebrations, family visits, and all the other activities helps them successfully navigate the daily agenda as well as the winter break as a whole. This recovery time will be an important factor in making sure they are ready to return to learning in the new year.

Another quick way to maintain good mental health during the holidays is to just do a quick mental “temperature check” for your student. If you have been on the go all day or at a particularly long event, ask them how they are feeling. Are they good? Neutral? Running on empty? Let them tell you instead of waiting until their mental health tank is dried up. If they are nearing the end of their bandwidth, you will know you need to wrap up your activity and will have an easier time doing so before they reach their limit.

As we work on strong mental health strategies for the break, another key consideration is that we are still in a pandemic. As if the list of to-dos isn’t long enough, we are forced to constantly rewrite a playbook for parenting during a global pandemic. As with all of the seasons for the past two years, winter break during COVID-19 is bringing a brand new variant and a new set of challenges.

As we gather to celebrate holidays during the pandemic, there are few things we can do to help cope with the seasonal struggles that are enhanced by Covid. An easy way to start is to know your own comfort level. Before RSVPing or heading to a gathering, stop and evaluate the minimal level of caution you are comfortable with and plan accordingly. Go into the season and events with a plan to keep you and your family safe and figure out where the line is for you. Once you have determined what precautions you need to take, communicate them with your family.

Having your family all on the same page will set reasonable expectations and prepare them to adjust to meet those pre-set standards. This will remove a lot of last minute worry and flustered changes.

Managing Holiday Stress and Anxiety in Children

Even with a Covid plan and some strong mental healthcare strategies in place, there may not be any way around anxiety and stress this winter break. If your child struggles with it in general or it is something that comes out of the season, it will still be present no matter how much you prepare. There are plenty of ways to help your anxious child navigate the inevitable stress of the holidays and activities.

First, try some deep breathing exercises. Just a minute of deep breathing can calm and focus your student in stressful situations or when they have reached their anxiety ceiling. If you have a few minutes, add some stretching with your breathing relaxation exercises. If you have a little more time, there are a few great apps that provide calming exercises for anxiety. They provide meditation guides and other things that help you relax and focus. They can be a great tool whether you are home over winter break, travelling, or just out and about.

How Do You Encourage Children To Set Goals For The New Year?

While we have already discussed a lot of ways to prepare for and cope with the holidays and winter break, this time of year is not just about surviving, but about thriving. There is also a great deal of opportunity to look to the future and plan for a new year. It is a great time for parents and students to refocus and think about what they want to do better going forward so that they can be the best version of themselves.

There are many ways to set smart goals for kids. An easy way to start is by asking your child what goals they have or what goals they would like to set. These do not have to be big things, but don’t have to be limited either. If there are some simple things that would be a marked improvement for your child, ask them to make a list and then you can spend a few minutes together organizing them and coming up with a way to track them. You don’t have to start them all at once. You can take them one at a time.

If your child is more inclined to make big goals, you can help them with that by setting up a fun goal-setting activity. Ask your student to list three goals, – one simple, one a bit more challenging, and one big goal. Come up with a plan for tracking all three goals. This will provide a chance for them to see their hard work pay off as they accomplish their easier goals which, in turn, will motivate them to keep working on that big goal. Regardless of what approach you take, goal-setting can be motivating and fun for students and their families.

How To Ensure That Your Child Continues To Thrive Throughout the Year

As you work on your goal setting, the team at La Jolla LearningWorks is happy to help your child achieve their goals and to help them thrive in the new year. If you would like to set up some 1:1 instruction to focus on some executive function skills or utilize some educational therapy for a specific area such as reading, writing or math, our team is here to support your students.

We offer several assessment options which allow families to get a thorough understanding of the areas where improvement is needed. From there, we customize learning plans for each student to ensure that they are getting the most out of their time with our instructors. Call us today to set up a complimentary consultation with our director.

However you spend your winter break, have fun and try to take some time to rest, relax, and recharge. Whether you decide to focus on some mental health strategies, planning to prevent Covid-related anxiety, incorporate learning strategies in your winter break plans, or planning for 2022 success, just implementing one or two of the strategies discussed here will contribute to a more successful season for you and your child. We hope you have a wonderful winter break and a happy holiday season.

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