How to Prevent a President’s Week “Breakdown” ( A Social Worker’s Guide)

In the effort to take our mental health, seriously, it is best to be prepared for what we are dealing with, during a vacation week when school is out. School year’s September start to our current date, we have already had 7 holidays, plus 5 vacation days and 3 half days that school has been out, to be exact, in addition to the snow day and 44 weekend days (yes, I count those!).   We have been through this, so the thrill is over. What was once a curiosity of what a day might be like without rushing to school in the morning, without having to keep to a strict schedule, is no longer unknown. We have had our chance to live that way. Some of us might not choose that lack of structure, especially when we have been forced to scramble to create a home school setting, on snow days. This is the time of year, when President’s week hits us, parents, hard. School is out, yet again, after being cooped up throughout the cold-weathered winter.

We may need to remind ourselves that we start the vacation time trying to enjoy ourselves, and the extra time we have with our children. If you can, that is the best way to spend the week off from school. This can be a time to play games together, bake or cook, read, explain things in greater detail, now that you have the time. You can actually pay attention to what they are saying, and listen to their questions. If there is something you know you enjoy doing with your kids, this week is the time to do it! Like we say, there is no time like the present. President’s week is the best time to grab for your most exciting indoor tricks you’ve been saving. In many cases, this is only an option for so long. Everyone has a different threshold, and you must know yours, since the main goal is to minimize frustration for yourself, and prevent a President’s week breakdown.

As we get busier or overwhelmed with responsibilities, we tend to develop higher stress, and a lower tolerance for frustration. This can lead to less productivity, more difficult interactions with others, greater conflicts and even guilt or a decreased sense of self, as a result. Staying in tune with our emotional well being, which includes identifying emotional needs or frustration levels, can increase our chances of survival, and may even cause us to thrive. Instituting time for ourselves, can positively impact our experience for the week.

It can be important to keep in mind that small increments of time and attention provided to your children, can go a long way. Sometimes it can feel like a push-and-pull if you’re trying to accomplish something you need to get done, and a child needs your attention at the same time. Sometimes, if we give them focused attention, initially, and follow up with an explanation of what we are trying to accomplish after we tend to their needs, we can actually accomplish what we attempt.

Crafts

If you can afford it, and they ask for it, just buy it. Let them do something they enjoy, that they’re excited about. Yes, there are benefits to saying “no,” to requests and demands of children, but this longer-term-lesson of disappointment we would like to teach them, does not have to come at the expense of our emotional health during vaca week from school! Remember, that you would like to be able to use the bathroom at some point. Therefore, load up on the crafts, and let them open it, and craft away; coloring, beading, stickers, stamps, paints, dot-to-dot, string, rainbow loom.

Utilize those “other” people around:

Playdates can work. If someone invites them over, do not hesitate, or question whether or not it works for your schedule, whether or not, the kids get along with those playmates well. The playdate does not have to be your child’s best friend. Lots of different play experiences and interactions are an opportunity to learn as well. It is best just to make the plan, and arrange the playdate, always keeping in mind the goal for the week, which is to maintain emotional health and wellness as the caretaker.   Family members or family friends have blocks of time? Even if they say no, because they’re not sure they can fit it into their schedules, do not take no for an answer the first time. Reel in those grandparents, aunts, uncles, old best friends for the “quality time with your children.” Even if they do not see the positivity of their quality time from the planning stages, they’ll be happy they did it, after the fact.

TV, electronics?

Yes, of course. These are highly reliable crutches for parents. We are hoping for a “break”, not a breakdown. If your kids do not engage independently, TV time, ipad, and video games may be the only time you can take care of anything. At some point you may want to find time to clean up what they just played with, or prepare something for anyone to eat, maybe even for yourself. Let go of the guilt, and utilize the TV and electronics if it affords you some time to feel productive during the week.

Drop off activities

Now is not the time to listen to the whims of your children. Sometimes, they say, “I don’t think I like chess , soccer, or screen writing,” or “I like soccer, but I don’t feel like playing at that place that day.” How many new experiences would our kids have, if we allowed our kids to make all of their decisions? We have to remember that we know what is best for them (and for us- ha!), but seriously! Again, it is an opportunity for learning, at the very least, to learn about what they enjoy and do not enjoy. They may have an idea that they will not enjoy the activity or the event, but that could be simply a fear or a thought, not necessarily the reality. It can be our obligation as parents to present options, experiences, and guide them in directions they may question, if we feel they may benefit from them, or learn something. Each activity is an experience.

Stay in touch with your supporters. If there are friends or family members you enjoy speaking to, catching up with, or seeing, make plans to include them in your daily activities if it is possible. If this is not an option, you can at least try to stay in touch by phone. We may underestimate the positive impact that a conversation exchange with an important support in our lives, can provide, if we take those interactions for granted. Vacation week from school can be a stressful time for caretakers. If you can, make the time to reach out and stay connected with those providing support, adding joy or humor to your lives. Every laugh matters!

It is important to find the joy and laughter, in everyday. We can hope to create them and realize them with our children as well. That is how we may begin the week! We can begin everyday this way.

Try not to forget you, this week. If there is something you truly enjoy being able to do, whether it is going to the gym, hiking, biking, going to the nail salon, taking a walk, lying down, having a tea or coffee, cooking, reading a book, a magazine, writing, talking on the phone, or even shopping, try to make the time to include it. As caretakers, we often sacrifice too much of ourselves in the process of caring for others. If we do not get to do anything for ourselves, we are at a greater risk for frustration in our interactions with others and our daily life events. This can leave us disappointed and depleted. Good luck! And, post pictures!

*  Above mentioned activities and suggestions may vary according to children’s characteristics, conditions, and diagnoses, and may not be viable options as related to existing conditions or diagnoses.  Feel free to contact me by email with questions.

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