Winter Break Can Be Stressful With The Kids Home: 8 Tips to Go with the Flow

The trick is to stay calm AND fend off issues before they arise so you can relax and enjoy the break with your family

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Winter Break Can Be Stressful When The Kids Are Home: 8 Tips to Go with the Flow

Written By: Marybeth Bock

Ahh… winter break is finally here! It’s a time for us parents to take a breather from all the pressure of our kids’ demanding school schedules (and driving them to Timbuktu and back), relax a bit, and enjoy our family during the break. But… if we’re being completely honest here, it can also be pretty stressful having our kids home. 

Sure, we all look forward to spending extra time with our kids during winter break, but we can also feel a sense of overwhelm with disruptions in our daily routines, the extra housework that comes with having everyone home (have you ever seen a kitchen after a teen makes themselves a midnight snack?), more cooking and increased time for family conflict – not to mention the pressure we all feel to make the holiday break special and memorable for our families. 

If you’re already starting to feel your blood pressure rise just thinking about it, here are some things you can do to pre-empt the stress and manage your sanity during the winter break.

Winter Break Can Be Stressful With The Kids Home: 8 Tips to Go with the Flow


1. Adjust Your Expectations (Big Time)

Brace yourself… your teen is going to make themselves a snack and leave the kitchen a disaster. Your teen might invite their friends over and invade your fridge and pantry leaving you with nothing but crumbs. And, they might sleep ’til noon (or later) every day or get lazy lounging around the house.

Try not to get too worked about any of it. Pick your battles, put your foot down if/when necessary, and let all the other stuff go. It’s just not worth it! Instead, focus on spending quality time with your kids and truly enjoying their company. Soon enough, there won’t be any messes to clean or a bunch of kids in your house raiding your pantry. Just go with the flow… 

2. Keep Your Priorities in Check

If you have a choice between getting worked up over a pile of dishes in the sink or going ice skating with your kids or taking them out to lunch… go hang with your kids. Remember that some things will always matter more than other things. Just do your best to keep your priorities in check and focus on things that matter – like your relationship with your kids and spending quality time with them. 

3. Don’t Plan Everything Out to a “T”

You know how teenagers are. Most (if not all), like to be in charge of their own schedules. And, considering they’re coming out of a long semester where they had a rigid school and after-school activities schedule, the last they want or need right now is someone dictating their every move over the winter break.

Instead, try to give your teen plenty of heads up if you need them to put something on their calendar and give them as much control over their own schedule as possible. That doesn’t mean you won’t have “some” expectations, it simply means they’re getting older and we need to have respect for their time. 

4. Cut Yourself Some Slack

You’ve been in high gear for weeks (perhaps months) planning, organizing, wrapping, shopping and cooking. Don’t beat yourself up – the laundry can wait a day or two and you can order a pizza instead of making dinner. 

Once Christmas is behind you (because we all know you have SO much on your plate now), give yourself permission NOT to be the perfect “memory maker” or be there at everyone’s beck and call. Do what matters most and if all the other stuff doesn’t get done today or tomorrow… oh, freaking well! 

Make sure you carve out time for self-care, too. Take a  ten-minute walk outside by yourself, or enjoy a quiet cup of tea in your bedroom while you read your favorite book. Prioritize your peace – you deserve it!

5. Let Your Kids Take the “Activities” Reins

You’ve been the ultimate “planner in charge,” now it’s time to let your kids take the reins. Let them plan a couple of fun activities to do as a family (or even one-on-one with you). Here’s where you might need to practice some “go with the flow” vibes and agree to do a few non-traditional things with your kids. Even if superhero movies aren’t your thing, who cares? GO! It’s all about making memories and having special time with your kids.  

6. Don’t Forget to Give Your Teen Space

I get it. You’re super excited to have your kiddos all to yourself for a couple of weeks, but teens will be teens and boy, do they love their space. 

So, before you bang on the bathroom door complaining they’re spending too much time in there, or freak out because they’re skipping the family movie time to hang out in their room and game or scroll through social media, take a deep breath and try to just let things “be.” It’s really okay.

7. Stay Informed to Keep Worry at Bay

Teens are typically on the go during the holiday break, (especially those who drive), which tends to stir up a ton of worry for us parents. Going with the flow doesn’t mean you give up on caring about where your teen is going or who they’re hanging out with.

Chances are, you’ll worry a whole lot less if you stay in the know. Encourage your teen to keep you in the loop with their plans AND send regular texts (or at least, occasional texts) so you have peace of mind that they’re safe.

8. Establish Your Ground Rules

Life with teens always tends to go more smoothly when you have a few solid ground rules in place. Think back to the summer or even last winter break – what irritated you, what worried you, what drove you absolutely nuts? Was it when your teen threw their stuff everywhere? Or, when they made a mess of the kitchen? Or… was it when they kept missing curfew causing you to worry yourself sick? Lay down the law (so to speak) and make sure they know what will and won’t be accepted or tolerated.

Also, just because it’s winter break doesn’t mean your teen is off the hook with responsibilities. Have them help out with things like grocery shopping, cooking meals, running errands, and taking down holiday decorations. They live there, too.

Of course, every family is unique, so these tips will need to be adjusted based on your family dynamics.

Keep the lines of communication open with your family, fend off issues before they arise, and above all, keep your priorities straight so you can enjoy the winter break! 


About Marybeth Bock:

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


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