Your Christmas Break Survival Guide

Today marks the official beginning of the “most wonderful time of the year!” It’s Christmas Break! If you’re anything like me, it’s a mixture of “tis the season to be jolly” and “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” because when the school bell rings this afternoon, your kids will come home for a nice, long 16-day weekend. And it’s most certainly NOT going to feel like a “long winter’s nap!”

Unless you’re a rockin’ homeschool mom with an I’m-not-afraid-of-my-kids-being-home-all-day perspective, you’re probably somewhere between a little nervous and planning to run away on Monday.

Before you do, here are a few things to make this Christmas vacation time a little less stressful and a little more fun for you and your kids:

1. Make space for yours, mine and ours. Sit down at the start of the break, maybe even today after school, and ask the family, “What would you need each day of vacation in order to have a great holiday break?” You may need time to read your new book or have a walk. Hubby might want to finish a project or play soccer with friends. The kids will likely have dozens of ideas, anything from video games or baking to time at the mall or playing with friends. With pen and paper in hand, make a plan for how each person in the family will get to relax in their favorite way each day of the break. Of course, longer activities or scheduled events will mix and mingle in, so plan ahead for those and work for a balance of “yours, mine and ours.”

2. Plan ahead for balanced meals. There’s plenty of candy, cookies, demolished gingerbread houses and flavored coffee available during the holidays… so make the meal plan now, and be sure that it is balanced with enough protein, carbs and fiber to keep the family well-fueled and the meltdowns to a minimum. Just as in the point above, our family sits down and plans for each person in the family to have one of their favorite meals each week of the break (since there are 6 of us). And we plan to cook creatively. By using the crock pot or modifying meal plans from one of the abundant sites for weekly/monthly meal planning, it builds in a breather from the relentless holiday cooking that can make the break tough.

3. Decide to invest as a family in the meaning of the holidays. Most of us have already been talking about the “reason for the season” and about the joy of giving to others. But take it one step further at the start of the break by deciding on a charity you’ll pray for daily together (or even help directly through time or gifts) during the next two weeks. Decide on a passage in Scripture that you’ll memorize together about the Christmas story, or a song that you’ll sing each night before bed. Something that deliberately focuses the family in a way that’s unique to this next few weeks and gives a common language of faith and service to each person to overcome the moments of “too much togetherness” and “I want…” craziness!

4. Take a daily break from the togetherness. Decide on a good time each day when everyone will do their own thing. If the family’s not used to that, start small (15 minutes the first day, adding 10 each day until it’s a full hour for kids older than 4 who don’t nap anymore). We play a calm CD that’s the length of the “quiet time” and my kids know it’s not time to get up and argue play again until it ends. There really is such a thing as too much fun (especially for kids with introverted personalities or sensory/mood challenges), so part of our job this holiday is to meter it out in such a way that it can stay fun as much as possible.

5. Realize that you’ll lose it at least once. We’re not perfect, so get yourself an early Christmas present: a toolkit of gracious words, encouraging verses, and things that fill your emotional tank again in a short span of time. For me, that includes cards people have sent after talks I’ve given, favorite scriptures like Ephesians 3:20-21 and Psalm 62:5-8, and a list of my values written in the first person (eg “I listen before I get mad because I value patience” and “I look for the humor in tough moments because I value humor”). Put your toolkit someplace you can see or get to it easily these next few weeks, and decide to forgive yourself when the steam starts coming out your ears.

6. Remember that “this too shall pass,” and that someday, you’ll want to have been intentional about this vacation (even though right now, if you have little ones, you’re probably just hopping from nap to nap!) Don’t let it pass too quickly. Be present each day, even on the tough ones where everyone melts down. Ever since I got my two older daughters as foster kids I decided that no matter how bad a day it is, I will be present in it because it will never come again. When they were traumatized 2 and 3 year olds, trust me, I WANTED to nap through that first few years! Especially the first holiday season. But instead I sat with it, and even that first challenging Christmas has wonderful memories as a result.

What do you do to make the holiday break fun and relaxing for everyone in your family?

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  1. says

    This is fantastic. Seriously, fantastic. We leave tomorrow for 2 weeks staying with in-laws and other family and I'm already worried about when my kids will hit the wall. Thank you for the practical insights.


  2. says

    Katherine, that's totally where I'm at too. It makes it so much more relaxing. How do you set things up before the break so you feel free to keep the expectations low during it?

  3. says

    I just keep reminding myself that I will NOT get anything done except to have Fun, Fun, Fun with my kiddos. If my “get done” expectations are low, then it is a time for me as well to rejuvenate from the school routine, watch Christmas movies, and make at least a hundred crafts with Christmas Trees on them!

  4. says

    Thanks, Barb! I think the whimsy must have come from eating too many Christmas Cookies… 🙂

    What kinds of things have worked to make the break special for your family?

  5. says

    Great idea to review every day. Not just for littler ones, but for my older ones with learning challenges. It will help me to reset my expectations more realistically each day.

  6. says

    Excellent tips, Laurie.

    (My add-ins)

    If your children cannot participate in the planning ahead – do it yourself (with your spouse if possible). My Hubby was often disappointed when ours did not remember the planning and behave accordingly. Option: plan one day ahead at a time with the children – while you have a flexible 16-day plan already.

    4. Especially.and.absolutely.

    5. “forgive yourself” (see number 4 just above)

    6. Each trauma is not the end of the world. Believe this.

    Merry Christmas, my online Friend!