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Busy hands

Busy hands

It’s March Break! Unfortunately, I have no absolute cure for the craziness you’re probably enduring right now, but here are a few hints:

1) Get them to help. Help with what, you ask? With anything and everything. Each of my kids is responsible to help make breakfast twice this week, to help make lunch twice this week, and to do a different chore each day this week.

The idea (which is working soundly through the first couple of days) is that they’ll have things to occupy them a little, while also reducing the amount of work that I need to do in order to keep them fed and the house on the good side of disaster (barely).

2) Make a schedule. I know, I know, it’s March Break. They just want to hang out and do nothing. I get it. And I’m not suggesting that you schedule everything down to the last minute. It’s fine to leave chunks of time for free play.

It’s important, though, especially for younger kids, to have some structure in their day. Knowing what’s happening allows them to cope and behave better. Even if your scheduling is just a few minutes of chat over breakfast to let them know the plan for the day, you’ll be far better off if you can give them some structure.

3) Limit their screen time. I know it seems easy to dump them in front of a video game or a movie, but too much screen time reduces the amount of physical activity and human interaction that they need to control their behaviour.

Instead of letting them binge their way through the day, plan a time (maybe when you really need to get something done yourself) when they’re allowed to use their screens, and then encourage them to use the rest of the day doing other things.

4) Give them other things to do. I don’t necessarily mean take them on trips or outings all the time (though that’s fun too). I mean, have things available for them to do – board games, puzzles, art supplies, books, toys, whatever. Have places you can go – the library, the park, the skating rink, the pool, and so forth.

In my house collectible card games, graphic novels, crokinole, drawing, and toy soldiers are all big winners. Your house will probably be different, but you’ll find winners too. Your kids may resist at first (the lure of the screen is strong), but you’ll be surprised how much they’ll get into if given a chance.

5) Make sure they get exercise. I don’t care how you do it – go for a walk, play snowball fights in the back yard, punch a heavy bag – but you need to get them active. It’s the number one correlate with good behaviour in my house, and I’ll wager that you’ll see it make a difference in your house too.

6) Have friends over. What, you say? Add more kids to my already crazy house? Here’s the thing – they actually distract each other, and they’re less likely to fight with friends than with siblings. You can even try swapping kids with another family, so you end up with the same number of kids but with less fighting. Or maybe you can take another parent’s kids for a while in return for them taking your kids later.

You might even get something done this week.