Did you enjoy the holidays with your family? Wasn’t it great to have the kids out of school... the whole family together at home? The socially acceptable answer, of course is, Yes! It was so much fun with the kids home. I’m sorry that they had to go back to school.
But honestly? Hmmm….having everyone home day after day sometimes results in conflicts between family members. And having the kids return to the regularity of a school schedule is….a relief!
How can we as parents make the time when our kids are at home for days or weeks at a time more fun, more productive? More...conflict free!
Kids may complain about schedules, but the truth is when their time is structured it helps them feel more comfortable and less irritable. So when you know there are weeks coming up in the near future that you and the kids will be with (or at?) each other a lot, pull out your calendar and get creative. Make plans to take your kids places you wouldn’t ordinarily have time for. For instance, during the Christmas holidays, find an ice skating rink to visit. During spring break, find an indoor pool where you can spend the afternoon. Or if the weather is warm enough, take them miniature golfing. Or if not, go see a movie. And don’t forget to buy popcorn.
But don’t feel like you have to always be entertaining your children in order to avoid conflicts or arguments in your home. Loosely schedule everyone’s in-the-house time. Each day at home ought to include your child doing one or two age-appropriate chores, not just busy work, but household jobs that your child could be responsible for. At first, especially if they’re young, you will need to spend some time showing them how (modeling) to do a particular chore. But remember, you’re not in a hurry.
Try to include both indoor chores, such as cleaning bedrooms, doing their own laundry, loading/unloading the dishwasher as well as outdoor chores like raking leaves, shoveling snow, washing the car or participating in organizing the garage. Burn up some of that childhood energy!
Schedule a time, after chores have been completed, to watch a TV program or DVD. Have a plan for what happens after the program is over. Then, turn the TV off.
Letting your pre-teens or teens fix the family dinner once a week also takes advantage of their creativity and energy. Have them choose something simple to make, such as hamburgers with baked beans. This will involve planning the dinner together and going to the grocery store to buy the needed items/ingredients. And again, the first time you do this, you will need to explain and model how certain things are done. But once they know what to do, they will probably be able to do at least some of it on their own. They should feel a sense of accomplishment.
And of course, one very important aspect of extra time at home - your child should be reading about 20 minutes every day. This could include you reading from a chapter book to one child or the whole family. Or you reading one page out loud from a book on his reading level, your child reading the next page. Or after a book has been completed, let your child paint a picture to show something that happened in the story.
Make trips to the library, if there is time, during this school break. Ask Grandparents to give Amazon gift cards to your child for Christmas or for her birthday. Then spend time with your child browsing and ordering her some books.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, How does doing these activities with my child keep us from having conflicts? In fact, it seems like these activities might even be the source of MORE conflicts!
Intersperse the obviously fun activities with the obviously work-type activities. Firmly and calmly make it clear that fun naturally follows chores. This is pretty much the order of life, so you are teaching your child a life skill.
And will this be work for you? Oh yes. God has given you this child to love and raise in a world filled with conflict, some of which your child contributes to. As do you.Again, this is an opportunity for you to model living daily life without contributing to the conflict...and apologizing when you do. This is hard. The hope is that the more you model this for your child, the fewer the conflicts there will be between you.