How to Create a Holiday Schedule

The kids are home for the holidays. Help! They’ve got all the free time in the world and you are gripped by fear about potential chaos exploding in your home.  The secret to managing kids during vacation is to ensure they have something to do EVERY day.  

You can replace that feeling of “What will I do?” with the question “What will YOU do?”  Now is the perfect time to help your kids learn about Time Management!  

STEP ONE:  Prepare before sitting down with your child.  Add structure to your kids’ vacation by preparing on your own (or with your spouse); then do the following activity TOGETHER. 

  1. Construct a large 2-week calendar with each day’s box big enough for notes and stickers.
  2. Make a list of things you know your child LOVES to do. Only include items that work with your schedule, too. For instance, don’t include an afternoon of ice skating if you know you won’t be available to drive them to the rink.  
  3. Add activities to the list that your child can TRY that are at least of moderate interest to them. If you know he will run wild in a museum, now is not the right time to try and introduce your wild one to the Picasso exhibit at the city art museum (even though YOU want to go).    
  4. TIP:You might want to put each activity on its own slip of paper and fill two bowls or hats with the slips. Hat #1:  ACITVITIES I LOVE  Hat #2: NEW THINGS TO TRY. 

 STEP TWO:  Sit down with your child to fill out their calendar together. This step gets your child involved in the process of planning his or her free time.

  1. Let your child know that you need his or her help.
    Choose a time where you both have at least 45 minutes available to sit down at the kitchen table and work on scheduling your child’s holiday schedule, together.
  2. Encourage your child to mix it up. 
    Put their options on the table. Explain the two types of activities they can choose from.
    Do not ONLY choose from the list of things you LOVE.
    Try sprinkling in new activities into your vacation schedule. 
  3. Lay down to rules of the game.
    They will need to schedule some type of exercise or sport at least every other day.
    Remind them you need to work together to schedule activity times that work.
    Let them invite a friend to accompany them on one or two activities each week.
  4. Fill in each day on the calendar.
    Use a pencil and have a big eraser so you can both make changes as you go…

TIP: Don’t load them up with chores or send them to the coal mine. They need to return to school like they had the time of their life! 

STEP THREE:  Follow through with the schedule you created together. Now (theoretically) you both know exactly what is planned for each day of vacation.  But will they follow through?  Their success in part depends on your help and guidance and validation and a clearly-defined reward system.

  1. Each day, review what your plans are for the next day together.
    Ask your child if there is anything they need to do to prepare. Let your child help determine what is required. This gives them ownership of their decision and gives them a chance to privately and mentally prepare while making physical preparations.For example, do they need to pack a lunch?  Call and remind their friend about the activity?  Confirm a movie time or call to find out how much tickets cost for ice skating?

2.   Check in with your child every day.  
Before prepping for TOMORROW, first discuss with your child how TODAY went. What did they enjoy? What could’ve gone better? Encourage them to share  details. Enjoy the interaction and encourage open dialogue and discussion by asking leading questions. 

TIP:  For young children, you may equip them with stickers to mark the calendar as each day is completed. For older children, you may ask them to rate the “fun” level with stars. Was today a 1-star or 5-star day?

3.  Limit the amount of TV and video games they play each day. 
It’s a good idea to limit video games and TV time over the holidays. However, there are some video devices that actually provide a physical workout! This can be especially useful when the weather is rough and everyone is stuck indoors all day.

4.  Reward your child at the end of vacation for following through.
Communicate there will be a reward if they stick to the plan they help create for themselves.

Good luck.  

Let me know how it goes.

If you run into opposition or defiance,  read a small but noteworthy book called Try and Make Me! by Ray Levy and Bill O’Hanlon.  They’ll show you how to deal with defiance and keep your cool. They will even show you how to legally restrain a child if you have to.

Happy Holidays!



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