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Ready or not—here comes the 4th of July! But what if this year you really connected with your family, not just got the grill out and some sparklers? Holidays are a great opportunity to connect, strengthen family bonds, build your family identity, maintain or start new traditions, and even learn some history in a fun way! Oh, and eat good food!

1. Eat Together. (And Let The Kids Plan And Cook The Meal!)

If you are anything like the average American family, it is getting rarer and rarer to eat together as a family. This a great opportunity! Whether you go the traditional burgers and hot dogs route or the kids pick some crazy stuff—make sure everyone eats together. (And that they put their phones away after they snap a couple of pics of the family and yummy food.) There is just something special about sharing a meal together that strengthens family bonds. Don’t let your teenager make a plate and disappear to watch television or play video games. This is family time!

2. Cultivate Conversations!

Just like the charcoal grill needs some time to warm up, conversations often need a little time to get cooking. While you are eating, have some conversation starters ready—What are you looking forward to this summer? Whats your favorite family memory & why? What 4th of July stands out in your memory? Is there anything that we (parents) DON’T let you (kids) do that you wish you had the FREEDOM to do? ★ Retell “those” stories that tend to come up when everyone is together and laugh at them. If you have multiple generations of your family represented or extended family, encourage them to tell stories from “back in their day” or how their families celebrated holidays. Don’t rush off—let the conversations ebb and flow.

3. Have Fun!

Card games, board games, get the Heads Up app on someone’s phone. (It’s a blast for the whole family!) Depending on how old the kids are and the weather, don’t be afraid to get wet. Get that sprinkler out, the kiddie pool, water balloons, squirt guns, or just start spraying kids with the hose! (They’ll scream and run away—and then run back for more.) The internet is full of Fourth of July craft ideas. For a twist, let the kids pick the crafts and games or even let them make up a game that everyone plays. Go for a walk after dinner around the neighborhood or ride some bikes. Stop and say “Hi” to your neighbors.

4. Learn A Little History Together!

Reenactments, movies, and virtual tours are great fun ways to learn a little about what Independence Day actually means (or just some American history in general). These can be fun for everyone, plus they can add a little depth to your Fourth of July. (Don’t make it like school—school’s out!) For reenactments, you don’t need elaborate costumes or props. They’ll be more fun (and funny) with what’s laying around the house. The midnight ride of Paul Revere, Washington crossing the Delaware, battling the British, cracking the Liberty Bell, the family forming the Statue of Liberty. Whatever!

Check your television or streaming service for specials, documentaries, biopics, or age-appropriate war movies to learn about the lives and sacrifices that built America. Gather the family around for some edutainment!

Virtual Tours are awesome! Maybe try the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Museum of Flight, National Women’s History Museum, NASA, The American Battlefield Trust Virtual Battlefield Tours, or any number of others. What better time to learn about the country than on the Fourth! Can’t decide? Try one of these 15 virtual tours of American landmarks. (If possible, connect it to your television!) Lots of virtual tours have games built into them like scavenger hunts.

Be intentional about this (and all holidays).

Sometimes we get so busy with food, crafts, and decorations that we forget about family. (Your kids won’t remember the perfectly matched plates, napkins, and cups. They will remember the family fun and conversation!) ★ If you are one of the many people who feel conflicted celebrating this Fourth of July given our current events, remember, this country affords us the freedom to talk with our families about the ideals upon which this country was founded—”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”—and what we have seen happening across our country. It’s a great conversation with our children to learn the responsibility that all of us carry to live out those ideals. Seize this moment with your family! This is the perfect day to examine our country and ourselves. 

This Fourth of July doesn’t have to just be an excuse to get the grill out—it can be a meaningful and profound way to connect as a family!

When I was a teen, summer meant one thing: work. And lots of it. I had 2-3 jobs lined up before school was out each summer because my goal was to make as much money as possible. Part of my motivation was to put gas in my car, pay for any eating out, and try to save for college expenses. The other motivation was that my parents believed working would help me learn to be more responsible and give me other necessary skills in order to be successful in life. 

With COVID-19 essentially slamming the door on the majority of summer jobs for teens, we face some challenges. The escape out of the isolation that many teens hoped for, the earning potential, and the learning opportunities that parents know come from working have been swiped right out of their hands. 

In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, young people ages 16-24 are more likely to face layoffs due to Coronavirus. Why? Because they make up 24% of employment in the restaurant, retail, and transportation industries. The lack of work leaves behind the opportunity to learn about working with others, being responsible, and accountable to someone other than parents. It may keep them from experiencing a sense of accomplishment from a hard day’s work.

Now what? With Plan A out the window, this is a great opportunity to help your teen put Plan B into motion. In spite of all that COVID-19 has taken from us, there are still plenty of things teens can do this summer. These things can make the time go by faster, but also help them continue to learn the skills they need to master before heading out on their own.

Here are four ways you can help teach your teen responsibility this summer in spite of COVID-19:

1. Set clear expectations for the summer.

Even though many options have been taken off the table, ask your teen to come up with a plan for their summer. The structure still matters and makes a huge difference in a teen’s mindset and motivation. Exercise, some type of work, help with household chores, time with friends in a socially distant way, things they need to learn to do for themselves such as laundry, cooking, managing money, and maintaining a vehicle, along with family time are important parts of their plan.

2. Help them think through opportunities that do exist.

Think yard work, shopping for those who cannot get out, being a nanny or manny for parents who have lost childcare and summer camp opportunities, odd jobs, or construction. Don’t forget about those special projects you or others have been putting off or need help doing. Part of the goal here is to help them think outside the box about what’s possible during a difficult time.

3. Encourage them to look at their strengths and identify what they are passionate about.

Are there online experiences they could take advantage of to further enhance their skill set and make them more marketable in the future? Can they take a distance-learning course to help them finish school faster or lessen their class load down the road?

4. Ask them to take on more household responsibilities to give you some relief while providing practical experience.

It may feel like more of a headache in the beginning, but these are all things they need to be able to do once they are out on their own. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and/or house cleaning or making household repairs could be ways they can step up and assist in a big way if they aren’t already. As a bonus, additional teen responsibilities at home is a helpful reminder that in times of crisis, everybody has something valuable to contribute to the good of the family unit.

Obviously, we are all dealing with the unknown here and looking for ways to navigate the constantly changing landscape. Undoubtedly, there is a tremendous financial and emotional strain on teens and adults because of the limitations we’re dealing with and certainly, we need to be sensitive to thisEven in the midst of chaos, circumstances often present themselves that turn out to be positive in the end. I’m hopeful that these tips can help you prepare your teen to handle any situation that comes their way and to help them learn responsibility even in the midst of a pandemic.

This summer is going to look a little different than most because of COVID-19. Although some camps and travel may be canceled, the quality time your family looks forward to in the summer doesn’t have to be. Fun and exciting experiences create lasting memories that help you draw closer to your loved ones. 

Let’s make the most of this summertime! Here are 5 ways summertime can help your family bond:

If you were planning a trip that got canceled, explore the areas around you! 

Find a way to recreate the vacation you were planning as a staycation. This will not only teach your kids how to turn a situation around, but you’ll get the creative juices flowing. If you were going to the beach, go to a lake. If you were going to go skiing, try sledding down a hill with a cardboard box.

Take a look at our Parenting Toolkit for the Best Summer Ever with your Family!

Enjoy fun and intentional quality time. Each day has an activity with a moral to the story and an opportunity to talk through the value taught. Not only will you bond over playing together, but while talking about the things that matter most to having a happy, healthy family! Here’s where you can find the Parenting Toolkit.

Routines, rituals, and structure can help your family bond! 

They create an environment that is predictable and provides security. If your kids can depend on and are looking forward to the activities that happen daily and weekly, this will keep you close all summer.

For example, maybe Friday nights become pizza night. If you’re not working from home, your kids might expect a text or call from you at noon to check-in. If you’re working from home, maybe you all plan to eat lunch together. Maybe you can come up with a fun summertime morning tradition.

Give your kids unstructured playtime. (Sometimes go outside and play with them!)

According to the Gottman Institute, “Play is how kids learn all the things and develop all the stuff. This means leaving time each day for straight-up unstructured, kid-controlled, exploration of the world kind of play.” When you set aside time for your kids to take the lead, you’re actively encouraging their curiosity and imagination, demonstrating that you trust them, and helping them build character. 

Other studies show that children who spend time playing outside become more adventurous and open to new experiences. These children develop skills that help them make more friends. Children use their imaginations to recreate their own world and because of this, they’re able to hold their own attention longer. 

Try new things together!

You have an opportunity to step into your kid’s passions, interests, and skills. Do they want to learn to play guitar? Let them put on a performance for you! Does the night sky interest them? Plan a constellation picnic and (tele)scope out some stars together with your favorite snacks. Do they want to work at drawing? Have an in-house art exhibition with fun snacks. Show an interest in what your kids are interested in. This is an awesome way to connect with your kids by having something to ask questions about and cultivate conversations.

Even though a lot of things have been canceled and summer looks different than you may have hoped for, you can be intentional and creative with your time. Enjoy making new memories together and maybe even start some new summer traditions. Have a great summer!

It’s that time of year. The flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. Your kids are excited about Spring Break. For many, Spring Break is a rite of passage where families travel, spend time together and reconnect. It has been a time to explore your hometown with a Staycation, join the extended family at the beach or family cabin, or take your kids to tour colleges (that’s what we do in my house). 

However, this year is much different than those in the recent past. Now, we are social distancing, dealing with Shelter in Place orders and the nature of self-quarantine. We finally have a routine and good rhythm around our work and homeschooling. Instead, now it is interrupted by Spring Break.

The purpose of Spring Break is for us to reconnect and spend time together.  We have had more togetherness in the past 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I can handle any more family togetherness. Plus, I have the added pressure that I am not off. I still have to work.  

What am I going to do? I have to keep them occupied but I also have to keep up my work productivity. Are you asking yourself, “Do they even need Spring Break?”  Or does it fill you with anxiety: “What am I going to do with them? I still have to work.” It’s Spring Break, but no camps, no vacations, no nothing.

Create a plan It’s important to understand that nothing is normal now, including school. But our children have been thinking about Spring Break since Winter Break. Have a conversation with your family. If you have plans to travel, keep your days off and create a Virtual Staycation. If the beach was your destination, bring the beach to you. Get creative. On the other hand, if you have to work, tell your children that you as a family will have to keep some semblance of a routine, but you will create intentional moments of fun.

Have Fun There is a plethora of ideas and activities for families. For my family, we plan to take virtual college tours for my rising senior. If your family likes art, several famous museums are conducting virtual tours. Have dinner and a movie where dinner is themed around the movie that you watch. An added bonus is to allow the kids to help set the menu and/or cook the meal. If work is still on the agenda, make time in the evenings to have some fun. If the evenings are still full, Spring Break it out on the weekends.

Stick with a Schedule Working or not, Spring Breaking or not, it’s important for our children to have a schedule – for them to wake up, go to bed, have meals at a similar time. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it will help you get back to the new normal of homeschooling and working from home after Spring Break.

This year Spring Break may not be filled with cruises, princesses or well-loved rodents (Mickey). I encourage you to find ways to bring Princesses and Mickey to your home. It doesn’t matter that things are different. Yes, they are. Our children will only be children for a small amount of time. Yes, the days are long, but the years fly by. We should enjoy the time that we have with them. Betcha some toilet paper that this will be the Spring Break they are still talking about years from now. Appraise, Adapt, Achieve.

Thanks to online shopping, my purchases were virtually complete. I asked my family what they wanted, and then I bought a few perfect presents (within my budget, of course).

But after the shopping was complete, I needed to plan how we’d spend Christmas break together.

For. Two. Whole. Weeks.

I didn’t want to waste precious time in front of a screen or do pointless things, so I decided to think ahead. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail, right?

Believe it or not, I do actually get excited about breaks.

I look forward to all the breaks from school and homework, for all of us. It’s a welcome relief from an all-too-often insane schedule, and we need the rest. But if I am honest, I’m usually a little too happy when school starts back.

But, when school’s in, we’re so busy that we don’t truly enjoy each other. And I realize it’s not fun to be around a mom (or wife) who is constantly barking orders to hurry up, get in the car, clean your room, help me with dinner, fold the laundry, etc.

So, I decided our Christmas break this year was going to be different.

Thankfully, my office was officially closed while my kids were home. So, it was up to me to make the gift of time with my family really count.

Instead of trying to guess what my family wanted, I decided to ask — the same way I asked about their Christmas list.

“What would you like to do with me during your Christmas vacation? Make a list of everything, and we’ll try to make it happen.”

It didn’t take long for me to find out what they wanted. In fact, I really already knew. It’s probably the same thing your family wants: UNDISTRACTED TIME.

Whether you officially have “time off” or not, whether it’s a holiday or not, you can still make all their wishes come true in some way. Find out how to spend the time you DO have with the ones you love — then make the most of it.

Just in case you’re wondering exactly what my kids desired from me during our break, here’s a sample of what we did over Christmas vacation:

My youngest child did my makeup (and hair). We read and sang together, shopped, and enjoyed cocoa and marshmallows by the fire. We created delicious food in the kitchen, played games and worked puzzles. We went ice skating and got coffee and doughnuts. And there was still be plenty of time to watch movies and sleep in.

This year, I’m going to make memories and intentionally enjoy my family. I have a feeling we could get used to these “things” that are not really “things.”

I can’t wait. And who knows? I just might be a little sad when the kids go back to school.

The countdown to Spring Break begins…

Almost everyone looks forward to spring break! For those who have a trip planned, the impatience and excitement are probably palpable. But, if you’re not going out of town, you might be anxious about the idea of planning fun activities for your “staycation.”

In this day and age, frugal, fun and free entertainment for your children for an entire week is not always easy to find. You probably already know your way around the area, so you won’t be stressed about spending a lot of money. And, there really are a lot of things for a family to do that cost next to nothing.

For starters, pull the family together and brainstorm ideas for your break. If your children are old enough, let them figure out all of the things they can do within your budget. This could be a great life lesson (you don’t have to tell them that) about getting to do a lot of things that cost a little money or one big thing that blows the entire wad.

If they think they’ve already done everything there is to do nearby, you might suggest a few tried and true fun things to do such as:

  • A photo scavenger hunt. Come up with a list of things they have to find or do, and take pictures to document their find. Since there are no more phone booths to stuff into, you’ll have to get creative about what you ask them to do. Pinterest can help you with that.
  • Make kites. You can find everything you need at a craft store.
  • Build a fort in your family room. This is great for a rainy day. Grab blankets and sheets and throw them over furniture, card tables, chairs, etc., to build your fort. Have a picnic inside the fort when you finish.
  • Make playdough or goo. It’s easy to make and everybody loves the stuff! (At least the kids do…)
  • Go camping in the backyard. If you don’t own a tent, borrow one and have a camp out in the backyard complete with S’mores.
  • Pack a picnic and head out for the day. There are plenty of great parks in the area. Pack your quilt, Frisbee, Whiffle ball and bat, and enjoy a relaxing day at the park.
  • Build an obstacle course in the backyard or through the house. Let the kids build it and time you as you go through it.
  • Volunteer somewhere as a family. Find someone in your community who could use some assistance with their yard or planting a garden.
  • Just hang out. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out at the house for spring break. You aren’t a bad parent if every minute of the week isn’t scheduled. It’s actually good for children to have unscheduled time where they have to figure out how to entertain themselves.

Keep a journal together and take pictures throughout your week. Then, put it all together in a picture collage or scrapbook. It will help you remember the memories you create and it makes for great stories around the dinner table.

There are plenty of parents doing the happy dance as they whisk their children back to school after the holidays. Moms or dads whose children stay with them all the time may be wringing their hands at this point though, trying to creatively keep their kids occupied and not begging to play games on electronic devices. 

Depending on the age of your children, inside activities may be the order of the day when it’s cold outside. To help you stay sane and create some really fun memories, here are some ideas from other parents you might want to try.

One mom presented her kids with a challenge. She gave them jello packets with sweetened, colored gelatin and let them add anything else they needed to make sparkly, fizzing explosions. They knew the jello powder wouldn’t react explosively with anything, so they added baking soda and sparkles. They also knew that vinegar or lemon juice reacts with baking soda, making their concoction bubble to the top getting the eruption/explosion they wanted. As a result, they decided to mix all their dry ingredients together first and then add the vinegar or lemon juice for a better effect.

Sometimes when it’s cold outside it’s fun to pretend it’s not. Crank up the heat a little, put on some shorts and let your kids make homemade no-churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream. Not sure how to do that? Here’s what you’ll need: 

2 cups heavy cream

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon blue food coloring

20 Oreos or something similar, and 

15 chocolate chip cookies. 

Put 15 Oreos and 10 chocolate chip cookies in a plastic bag and break them into chunks. Set aside. Whip heavy cream, food coloring and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Beat in condensed milk until color is uniform. Add additional food coloring if needed. Fold in broken cookies and transfer to loaf pan. Break up all remaining cookies and use to decorate top of pan. Place in freezer for at least 5 hours and then enjoy! 

Recreating recipes are great activities to practice counting, naming colors, measuring specific amounts and talking about the difference in the way we measure liquid and dry ingredients – all in the midst of doing something fun.

Present your children with some random things you have around the house such as a box (shoebox, shipping box, shirt boxes, etc), unused paint stir sticks, newspaper, tape, popsicle sticks, paper plates, paper cups, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and whatever else you can find; then challenge them to create something.  

Still need more ideas? Break out the playdough or board/card games. Build a fort inside the house or have a contest doing something fun like dancing, singing or cooking. Think of some things you enjoyed or wanted to do as a kid and recreate the experience for your kids. Ask other parents what they do or plan a craft you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t yet. You might even do a quick online search for fresh ideas or inside activities using items you already have in your home. 

If you’ve ever seen a child spend hours playing with a box, you know just how creative they can be. Imagine what kids can do with just a little direction here and there. Some kids will jump right in to a new activity while others balk at leaving electronics behind. But chances are, whatever you plan for them will satisfy and stimulate them way more than staring at a screen ever will. Plus, they’ll remember it longer, too.

“I remember going home for Christmas my freshman year,” says Akeyla Madison. “I had been on my own for five months and felt good about how I was doing. When I arrived home, I was surprised to found out I would be sharing a room with my sister who is six years younger than me because my room had been turned into a storage room. I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t think that would be a big deal.

“My mom also wanted to know where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. I felt smothered and honestly couldn’t wait to get back to college and my freedom.”

While parents and family members are excited to see their freshman come home for the holidays, the transition can be complicated for everybody, especially if expectations are not clear on the front end.

“I didn’t know ahead of time I would be sharing a room with my little sister,” Madison remembers. “Because there was such an age difference, it made me uncomfortable. My mom didn’t want me staying out late because she was afraid I would wake up my sister when I came home. We survived each other, but it wasn’t pretty.”

Her sophomore year, Madison decided to try something different. She called her grandmother who lived close by and asked to stay with her over the winter break. 

“That worked out a lot better on so many levels,” Madison says. “My mom and I got along better. There was no tension between my sister and me, and I think we all enjoyed the holidays more.”

Madison is now preparing to graduate. When asked how she would advise parents and college students preparing for their first long break together, she shared the following:

Communication is critical. Everybody needs to talk about expectations for being together before the break begins. Talk about the family plans and ask your young adult about their plans for the holidays. If you expect them to be at certain events, be clear about that. Discuss expectations for helping out around the house, their friends coming over to visit, food in the refrigerator, coming and going, meals, etc. These things can create unnecessary drama due to unspoken expectations on both sides.

Flexibility is a good thing. Being away at school has allowed your young adult to use many of the skills you taught them at home, but coming back home is an adjustment for everybody. If the parents and college student are willing to adjust, things will probably go a lot better. It’s important to remember that the family has created their own new normal without the college student and the student has probably grown in their independence – which is the ultimate goal, right? Just because they return home does not mean things will or even should revert back to the way they were before they left. Some students choose to earn extra spending money for the next semester. This can throw a monkey wrench into holiday plans as well. 

Mutual respect goes a long way. When learning to dance a new dance, it’s easy for everyone involved to get frustrated or say and do things they will ultimately regret. Respecting each other while trying to work things out goes a long way. For the college student, it means realizing you aren’t company. Expecting people to wait on you hand and foot and make adjustments based on everything you want to do isn’t realistic or respectful. For everybody, you still have to respect what you don’t understand.  

“Looking back, I realize I felt more like an adult, but my mom saw me as just 18 and had the life experience to know all that could potentially go wrong,” Madison recalls. “That created tension between the two of us. At this point I think I have a better understanding of why my mom was concerned and I can clearly see that she wanted the best for me. I think if we had actually done the things listed above, the transition would have been smoother for both of us.

“Believe it or not, most of the time we really are paying attention to the things you say and are teaching us. We may do some stupid things along the way, but for the most part we want you to see that we are capable.” 

For tips on parenting, get our E-book, “How to be a Guide for your Teen.” Download Here

Many families will experience a new normal when college students arrive home for their first extended break. The thought of sleeping in their own beds, eating good food and resting for about a month sounds amazing. But parents and college students alike will wonder about a few things, like:

  • Should I spend time with family or catch up with old friends?
  • What rules do we play by now?
  • And, are curfew and other details really necessary?

While parents and students both look forward to this time, “It’s complicated” could definitely describe how things will go without conversations ahead of time. If you want to lay the foundation for a great visit, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Here are some helpful suggestions for both parents and students.

For Parents:

  • Re-think the rules. It is hard to be treated like an adult at school and like a kid at home.
  • Be interested in their new friends and their happenings at school.
  • Remember that it is an adjustment for everybody, not just you.
  • Recognize that college students feel a lot of pressure when they come home. They want to spend time with their family and their friends.
  • Be creative. Instead of complaining about the time they spend visiting friends, throw a party and invite everybody to your house. That way you can catch up on the latest, too!
  • Anticipate that your student will need some rest. They have just completed exams. Try to be understanding if they are a little grouchy the first couple of days.
  • Warn younger siblings that things will probably be different and be aware of their feelings, as they too are dealing with change.

For Students:

  • Even though you have had your freedom, be respectful to your parents. If they ask you where you are going and when you will be back, tell them because it is the right thing to do. If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one.
  • Ask your parents if they are open to rethinking some of the house rules. If they are, offer constructive suggestions and don’t push the edge of the envelope.
  • Remember, your parents have been away from you. Be open to spending time with them. Answer their questions about school and your new friends.
  • Make the most of your visit with your parents. Don’t take them for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
  • Many parents will still have to get up early and go to work. Consider how your actions could impact their ability to get good rest and do their job.
  • Try to balance your time at home and with your friends. (Sleeping in your own bed doesn’t count as time spent with your family).

Be encouraged. Although it can happen, heading home during the holidays doesn’t have to cause tension. A few conversations, along with some compromise on both sides, could set the stage for some great memories this holiday season.

For tips on parenting, get our E-book, “How to be a Guide for your Teen.” Download Here

Scott (not his real name) will get his fill of turkey this Christmas at three different homes with different sets of parents and relatives. He’s not happy about moving from place to place, but he really doesn’t have a say.

“It is not unusual for children of divorced parents to celebrate holidays multiple times,” says Rev. Dick Dunn, retired minister of singles and stepfamilies and author of New Faces in the Frame and Willing to Try Again: Steps Toward Blending a Family. “Often, parents are so caught up in their own feelings of grief and loss or wanting things their way during the holiday season, they forget how hard it is on the children.”

For example, one child said she wanted to go visit her non-residential parent, but when she is with that parent, she misses the other parent. Going back and forth is better than nothing, but it is very hard on children. It’s helpful if parents recognize this.

“Every time they go back and forth, they relive the divorce,” Dunn says. “A lot of the acting out that occurs in preparation for a transition, especially around the holidays, is a reaction to the gut pain, hurt and anger children feel. The best thing parents can do is help their child make the transition from one house to the other as smooth as possible.”

To help children have the best holiday celebration possible, Dunn offers these suggestions to parents:

  • Acknowledge that transitions are difficult. Talk about holiday plans ahead of time and get your child’s input. Sometimes acknowledging the reality of the situation can make things better for your child.
  • Strategize with your child. Ask them what would make the transition easier. They may not know at the moment, but asking them can make them feel good. When they suggest something, try it evaluate how it worked together.
  • Keep commitments. Your children are depending on you to do what you say you will do.
  • Don’t play games with your child’s emotions. Children learn relationship skills from watching their parents and they often question their parents’ love and care when things do not go as planned. Do not put them in the middle or use them to hurt the other parent.
  • Be prepared. If plans change often, get your child ready for that. Then make a back-up plan and understand their disappointment.
  • See acting out behavior for what it is. Ask your child, “What would make going easier?” or “How can we make your return go smoother?”
  • Stay in the parent role. It’s normal to want to be your child’s best friend, especially when you only have him/her for a day or two. But once you cross this line, it is very difficult to go back to the parent role. Your child is depending on you to be their parent.
  • Remember, you can celebrate the holiday when you want. Celebrate according to what works best for you and your child.
  • Consider how making or changing plans will affect your child beforehand.

“The key to pleasant holiday memories for children who are moving back and forth between homes rests in the hands of the parents,” Dunn says. “Regardless of the situation, focus on solutions and staying whole in the midst of craziness. Parents have the responsibility and privilege of setting the mood for the holidays. Being considerate of your children as they adjust to this situation will help them create pleasant memories. Including them in the planning process will encourage communication that makes the holidays easier for everyone.”