a mother and her children haven't left the house yet and her kids are disappointed


Planning Too Much For Your Kids Over March Break Can Leave Them Disappointed

Mar 6, 2019

My daughter and I make lists. Well, I do and she is forced — by proximity — to do it, too. We make grocery lists and to-do lists. We also make menus for the week so we know what meals we have the ingredients for, and lists of fun things to do.

With March Break approaching, and winter lagging on and on, it seems every second conversation or idea ends with “we should do that over March Break; add it to the list.”

Relevant Reading: 6 Easy and Inexpensive Ideas for March Break

Our Growing List

There’s a puzzle we’ve been meaning to do and a slightly-out-of-the-way bakery we want to go to. There’s an art show at a gallery we previously didn't have time to check out. We also want to see friends across town who we don’t get to see much during the school year, and friends closer to home that my kid mostly only sees at school.

Meanwhile, I’ve been meaning to refinish our table, hang some towel hooks and, frankly, any such need or want has now been relegated to the March Break list.

More is More

Parents tell me they chronically overbook the winter holiday break. They feel like two weeks is so much time that they’re sure they can do all the things they have planned. But ultimately they wind up exhausted by the end of it.

Given that the spring break is half as long, my habit of planning far too much for it is kind of humorous.

You Can Be Over-prepared

And while our long list of planned activities are mostly relaxing (bakeries, art galleries, brunch), and certainly things we'd like to fit in some day, the expectation that we could — or even should — tackle them on a five-day break may be setting expectations a little too high. 

Relevant Reading: 47 Indoor Activities for March Break

Quality Over Quantity

So, given March Break is not actually a month-long break, how does a parent strike a balance between wanting some downtime outside of the busy school schedule and wanting to do it all? 

Here are some tips for any over-planners like me:

  • Prioritize. Ask your kid or kids what the number one thing they want to do over the break is. It may be a day-long outing, but sometimes it’s as simple as crafting, baking or making a science project. (We can’t be the only ones sitting on a stack of grow-your-own dinosaur, sea monkey and crystal kits.)
  • Socialize. Figure out one or two friends or families you’re going to make an effort to see over the break and make an actual plan. Accept that you’re unlikely to see everyone you had a “maybe we’ll do something over the break” convo with, and solidify a couple of plans so you know you’ll be breaking up family-only time with social time.
  • Build in down time. Write it right down in your calendar. A "do nothing day" or couple of half days will go a long way, and your break won't feel like you’re recreating the endless rush of the usual school week. Make it fun: suggest staying in pajamas and breakfast for dinner — ways to make a bit of relaxing still seem like an activity to look forward to.
  • Consider yourself. Give yourself a vote on the activities for the week. Make sure you get to pick a board game or takeout spot when those are the plans. The truth is, your kids are likely to notice when you're enjoying yourself — so it’s good for everyone.
  • Hold on to your list. If you’re list people, hang on to the list. Opportunities for fun don’t end after March Break, they just need to get scheduled into weekends and other breaks. Having a list of things to look to during times of “I’m bored” or “what should we do this weekend?” is a good thing. Make sure your list includes some easy-to-make-happen activities like watching that movie you’ve had saved to your Netflix list for months.

Lowering expectations to avoid disappointment is likely going to be an ongoing lesson — you can't do everything, no matter how hard you try — for the adults and children in your family. Showing that scaling down can have good results is a great start. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, though. I know I still need to make edits to my own list. 

Article Author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She’s a queer single mom to a 7.5-year-old. She’s overshared about her daughter for Today’s Parent, Bunch Family, Baby Post and various other print and digital publications. She’s also a poet (her kid says “of sad books”) and book reviewer (for Publisher’s Weekly, The Canadian Children’s Book News and more). You can find her on Twitter @therealrealtmz.

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