By Priscilla J. Dunstan, McClatchy-Tribune
School is one of those things that bring structure and balance to life. It provides a mandatory structure that dictates the cadence of the days. Though generally comforting, this structure can sometimes feel restrictive, and perhaps a bit unfair.
We often feel this the most after the Christmas break. We have had a taste of freedom, family has surrounded us, and we have wonderful new toys calling for us to play. You can ease the transition back to school by incorporating those traditions into your regular family routine.
One way of tackling this problem is to try and bring some of the elements from Christmas into your normal weekly schedule. Ask each child what their favorite three things about the holiday were, aside from toys. Ask them to focus on simple, family moments that made them feel the special holiday spirit.
Taste and smell children will probably say they liked the family dinner, the cooking and eating together, and being able to be with everyone. If this is the case, is it possible for you to create a family dinner more often? Even just calling a meal a special family dinner could work. If your family lives far away, make a firm plan with your taste and smell child when you will next see them. You could also create a ‘friends’ family a group of local friends to share an extended family dinnertime. Use these dinners to let your taste and smell child learn to cook, write invitations and thank-you notes. You can also spend some time creating a photo album of these family dinners, to recreate the warm feeling they miss about Christmas throughout the year.
Tactile children will miss the activities — putting up the tree, carrying in the firewood, running around with cousins. Going back to school often means that their physical freedom is compromised, as they have to sit still for long periods. Try to keep some of the fun — physical — activities going outside of school hours. Maybe during the holidays Dad played basketball before dinner, but now he’s back at work and arriving home late. Is it possible to delay dinner 15 minutes, and play a quick game yourself? Maybe your tactile child played jump rope with his cousins could you bring the jump rope to school a few minutes early, and play before the bell? Also, your tactile child loves to help, so enlist them like you did at Christmas, to carry things, take out the recycling, etc.
Auditory children will continue to sing Christmas carols, long after the rest of the family finds them annoying. Combat this by teaching them some songs for the next holiday Valentine’s Day is my favorite, as all the songs are about love. During the holidays, your auditory child got to be home with you more, and she got to talk to you in fits and starts all day, whenever she had something to say. Now, back at school, she’s probably coming home with a whole library of commentary to remember. Set aside a few, scheduled “talk times.” One after school, one before dinner and one before bed this will allow your child the freedom to remember and tell you the details of their day, without the usual household distractions, like dinner, baths, homework, etc.
Christmas is a very visual time of year: the lights, the colored paper on presents, the food carefully arranged, and matching Christmas outfits. After all that visual stimulation, it can be hard for the visual child to go back to the dull and dreary school days. Fortunately, with the New Year can come a new look! Change the color of their room, simply by using a new bedspread, or grab a few new sweaters of bright colors in the post-holiday sales to help brighten things up. Christmas is often characterized by reds and greens. Perhaps each day of the week could have its own color? Yellow for Monday?
Missing Christmas is part of the charm of it; it means we get to look forward to next year! But it can also be a time when we get to reconnect with what makes us and our children feel understood and loved, and give us all a chance to implement those special things back into our lives again. We might not get presents every day, but we can still give the present of a close family to our children.
Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.