Kids Home for Winter Break? Enjoy a Stress-Free Holiday

Posted December 10, 2015 by

Kids Home for Winter Break? Enjoy a Stress-Free Holiday

The kids will be home for the holidays soon. You’re trying to stay optimistic, but you can’t shake the feeling that this winter will be like all the rest…

The children argue, make messes or spend all their time with friends instead of family. You’re busy breaking up fights and doing extra housework. Whatever happened to enjoying a memorable, stress-free holiday together?

These next couple weeks may be a vacation for your kids, but for you, it feels like a second job. Don’t panic! We’ll show you how to get through it with your sanity intact.

Tension levels can rise dramatically during the holidays. Your kids might not have school for a few weeks, but you likely still have work and other responsibilities. This creates a conflict of priorities that can upset the balance of your home. When this happens year after year, it creates a pattern.

It’s common for parents to interpret these patterns by forming expectations – you get so used to coming home to an argument or a messy house, you start to expect it. You may feel “on edge” and experience anxiety, frustration or anger. When you’re in such an emotional state, you’re more likely to react to your child – or anyone, for that matter!

To be a calm parent, it helps to look at the big picture. Step back and view your family patterns. Widen your lenses and stay objective.

If you feel like you know what’s going to happen when you get home, then great! You can use this awareness to your advantage by forming a plan ahead of time. If you know you’re coming home to messy house or an argument, take some time to prepare your response.

We recommend trying the STOP Plan from Debbie Pincus. This simple, four-step technique will get you down from 100 to zero in no time – it’s one of my favorites! Debbie writes about how to use the STOP Plan in her article, Expecting a Fight with Your Child? (You’ll Get One).

It also helps to repeat phrases like, “This too shall pass,” or “This is how my child is dealing with his own anxiety; I don’t need to get sucked into it.” Pause and take a deep breath – it’s in that space that you have control. You have the power to decide how to react. If you need help, you can count on us! We’re here to help you become a calmer parent.

Talk soon,

Denise R., Empowering Parents Coach
Learn more about 1-on-1 Coaching

“Always remember there are two different directions you can choose – the best one is to have a plan and go at it calmly.” – Debbie Pincus, creator of The Calm Parent AM & PM


Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

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  1. aseymour7 Report

    I love this program, and consider James Lehman to be my parenting “sponsor” (in 12-step speak). But I mostly feel like I am hiding my real life to the majority of the people I know. Nobody besides my husband and a few horrified therapists know the truth of what it is like to live with this child. We have a “typically developing” daughter who is an absolute delight, and our “challenging” son wears us all down to nubs. I work with domestic violence victims (ironically), and I realize how similar my life is to theirs — I make excuses for him, try to put a positive spin on his behavior, don’t tell others what he has done because I need other parents to allow us to socialize with them on occasion. He is already a social pariah and has never gotten an invitation to a birthday party or a sleepover. It is very different when your abuser is a child (or so it feels to me) because I am unable to escape his abuse, and in fact am responsible for him for another 8 years, at the very least (he is ten). If he were an adult I would have “left” him years ago because there is no excuse for abuse. He is adopted, which I know plays into much of his illness — a combination of genetics and attachment disorder — but I have come to have a different view on private/transnational adoptions because we are completely outside the foster care/adoption system and have no support. Our child is just as dysfunctional as a domestically-adopted child but we have no Medicaid, no parenting support, no state-funded respite care. What I am focussing on now is how to help my husband and me to endure the next few years, and am considering renting a small apartment as a respite space. We live in a 1600sf house and our son is so inflexible that he won’t leave with a sitter or go to school or do much of anything that he doesn’t want to, and no amount of consequences and timeouts has ever changed that. I am in therapy, I read blogs and books on parenting (all the programs in Empowering Parents, Ross Greene’s books, Kazdin method, etc.), so my new hope is to have the courage to change the things I can, which is myself and my attitudes. I am unable to change my child, that much is clear. He was dismissed from another school just before the holidays for just generally being a “behavior” problem, so we have been home since Dec 18th with no relief. We have burned through many sitters, and I’m interviewing another one on Wednesday. My older sister is going to homeschool him starting in January, so that’s a plus. But I became a parent at 40, and was ambivalent even then, so giving up on a peaceful refuge (my home) has been a bitter pill to swallow these past ten years. Maybe a respite apartment would help? My husband and I can have dinner together, spend much-needed couple time, read, and even let our daughter come over for quiet time. I would rather do this than institutionalize my son, because he is severely traumatized already and is sure that we are going to “get rid of him” like his birth mom did. We are not in a financial position to move out of our house to a larger one, and what we need is a “third place” to retreat other than home and work. I’m tired of going to coffee shops and libraries to try and get some peace. I need more than that to survive this ongoing trauma and grieve the loss of the family I thought I would have. Has anyone else ever rented a respite place as a way to separate from a violent/dysfunctional child?

  2. Rahenara Begum (Edit) Report

    Hi, I have a son who is 11yrs old. We are constantly arguing now. He just fibs most of the time and is struggling to tell the truth. Keeps on saying I judge him all the time. Doesn’t like to do his homework. Doesn’t like to sleep on time and nor does he like to wake up for school on time. Please give me some advice on how to deal with this behaviour.
    Thank you

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Rahenara Begum
      Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. It sounds
      like you have a lot going on right now. It’s going to be most productive to
      pick one behavior to focus on at a time, as Carole Banks discusses in her
      It has been my experience that trying to fix everything at once can be quite
      overwhelming, for both the parent and the child. Once you’ve decided which
      behavior you would like to start with, you can then come up with an action plan
      for that behavior. We have hundreds of articles that offer great tips on how to
      manage many different kinds
      of behaviors. You can find a list of topics here: Our articles are divided into specific categories as
      well as by specific authors. Once you have decided which behavior you want to
      focus on first, you can also check back here and we will do our best to give
      you tips and techniques relevant to your specific situation. Take care.



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