In the United States, many schools have Spring Break during the month of March and April. Around the world, at different times of the year, parents and caregivers support their families and children in transitioning from school to time off and back again. How do we deal with technology on break?
Breaks or holidays can often mean more unstructured time for the whole family. While it’s important for children and teens to experience unstructured play and downtime regularly, the transition from a rigorous school routine to week-long breaks can be challenging for everyone.
When life gets unpredictable or out of sync, anxiety, depression, and technology addiction can spike. As parents, caregivers, and supporters, we can facilitate structure that supports our children and teens in staying happy and healthy through the ebbs and flows of the calendar year.
10 Ways to Thrive this Spring Break
Whether you and your family are staying home or traveling during the next school break, this list of 10 strategies with help you and your family stay grounded.
1. Talk about the plan as soon as possible. If there are travel plans, begin discussing months or weeks ahead. Allow everyone to settle into the idea of what the break might look like or feel like. Setting expectations and beginning brainstorming early helps young people imagine the experience. They can work out areas of stress during this time, as well as build anticipation and joy for the upcoming event.
2. Make space for plans to be collaborative. Children and teens thrive when they know that they have agency and voice in their family. Allow them to help plan age-appropriate elements of the week off of school. This includes tasks such as researching online, scheduling with friends or family, selecting activities from a list of parent-approved ideas, and brainstorming places and spaces they would like to explore.
3. Set specific parameters for technology usage. Your children and teens are always going to have a relationship with technology, and you can support and care for them by helping them make and maintain a healthy relationship. Begin a conversation that allows your child or teen to express their needs, desires, and observations.
4. Find support. If you are working during the break or want to secure adult-only time during a holiday or vacation, plan ahead and find support. It’s okay (and necessary) to take time away from your children and teens, and it’s also perfectly acceptable to ask for help from family, friends, or a childcare specialist.
5. Aim for balance. It is important to give children and teens the time and space to relax and recover from their hectic school schedules. Time for rest and play needs to be a part of the structure you and your family create together. Have a plan, and ensure that the plan includes downtime.
6. Maintain daily routines as much as possible. Even if you are traveling, prioritize routines that support sleep and mealtime, for example. This can be particularly grounding, as the rest of the day or even the environment may be unfamiliar or unstructured.
7. Incorporate physical activity and time outdoors. Include time each day for movement and nature, as weather and location permit. If it’s necessary to stay indoors, explore resources such a GoNoodle or check YouTube for guided yoga practices.
8. Model the presence you want your children to observe. Take note of your own patterns, routines, and tech-usage. Kindly remind yourself of the behaviors you want to see your children practicing and do your best to model these each day. Aim for growth, not perfection; we are all learning what balance is together!
9. Break stressful tasks into chunks. Use timers and break tough tasks or experiences into more manageable segments. One of my clients struggles with being in the car for longer than 30 minutes. Before his last visit to see his grandparents, we came up with the plan of breaking the drive into five 30-minute segments. Together, we brainstormed a list of five ways he would like to pass time. My client set the timer on his iPad for 30 minutes and got started with his first activity. At the end of this segment, he paused and took some intentional breaths, then selected his next task.
10. Rely on community resources. Always remember that libraries, community centers, and parks offer engaging activities and options for your children and teens. School breaks and holidays can get costly, and rely on community resources that already exist and are made for YOU. Not only will this bring a bit of ease to your checkbook, it will also help your family connect with the greater community, whether you are home or traveling.
These ideas for setting your family up for a balanced, intentional spring break or holiday will be returned to over and over again with each new season. Building family norms and culture is a process always in progress, and I’d like to remind you to be gentle with yourself and your family along the way.