Managing a Family Spring Break

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

After a very long winter, the sun is finally making its’ presence known. The daffodils are starting to bloom and birds are singing. All of these signs alert families that school spring breaks are quickly approaching.

Spring breaks can be a challenge for families regarding what to do with the children during that time. Many parents decide to take that week off of work and go on a family vacation, typically toward warmer climates. Other parents don’t have the ability to take off of work and are left with finding places for their children to stay during the day.

Each situation requires children to break from the routine that has been established during the school year. Children tend to thrive when they have a structured environment that is predictable. In order to have spring break go smoothly, it is important to inform children about what is going to happen regarding their schedule well in advance. This makes it less likely that children will act out during the break, which will make the break more enjoyable for everyone.

Spring break also means that children will start spending a lot more time outdoors as the weather improves. It can feel liberating to be outdoors after being cooped up inside for most of the winter. Sometimes it feels so good, families throw caution to the wind and go outside without protecting themselves from the sun.

One of the sure signs of early spring are the sunburns on children’s faces. Even though the sun is not as powerful during the early spring, it can still cause sunburn if children are out long enough. This is particularly true for families that travel south for spring break. All children should use sunscreen (at least SPF 15), wear ultraviolet (UV) protected sunglasses, and wear clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. This will protect them from the sun’s rays as they become reacquainted with the outdoors.

Families that are traveling during spring break can find it to be a more stressful experience than traveling during the summer. Parents have to simultaneously plan their vacation and make sure the children are completing their homework in the weeks leading up to the break. Often there are parts of the vacation planning that can get overlooked in this hustle and bustle.

One area that gets overlooked is preparing for the travel portion of the vacation. This means creating a packing list that includes bringing pillows, blankets, first aid kits, and loads of entertainment options. In addition, breaks need to be scheduled and the children will need snacks for the trip. Parents who don’t overlook the travel portion of vacation will have a much more rewarding spring break.

Spring break can be a terrific time for families to reconnect away from the grind of the school year and winter weather. Taking some time to plan for that break can ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time and come back prepared for the last couple months of the school year.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on March 29, 2015

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