March Break can be a challenging time for families, and it can also provide opportunities for positive experiences and benefits for mental health.

The team at Whole Heart has compiled a list of March Break stresses along with practical ideas to help adults, teens and young children get the most out of this time:

1. Social: March Break means kids are away from school – which means they’re also away from their friends and this loss of daily connection can cause them stress. Parents may see March Break as time to spend time with their kids – those same kids that want to spend time with their friends – and these differing expectations can cause stress for both parents and kids. Especially after the experience of pandemic lockdowns, being home together for extended periods of time may also cause stress for the entire family.

How to remedy this challenge? This is a time to discuss feelings and set reasonable expectations. Kids can have designated time for plans with friends, and can also be expected to spend time at home for meals and/or taking part in some family activities.

2. Structure: Generally speaking, young kids, teens and parents all benefit from having structure in their day. During the school week, there is an established routine and everyone in the family knows more or less what is expected of them. March Break can mean a welcome respite from the daily rush and jam-packed schedules, but the lack of structure can cause its own stress. Additionally, addressing schedules among parents who are not living together can further complicate matters and increase stress levels.

This is a time to create some expected structure within the schedule for the week by planning special activities while also keeping bed times and wake up times reasonably aligned with what is otherwise the norm. Remaining somewhat flexible is also important as you navigate this temporary period of a different routine.

3. Financial: Not everyone can afford a vacation and some parents cannot take time off work. Activities or childcare may be needed. At-home and low-cost or free activities can be found in most communities during March Break. You can also look to connect with friends, family and neighbours to arrange playdates or visits that will support the need for social engagement and supervision.

4. Transition: Going back to school after time off can bring a rise of anxiety and resistance from kids as routines get back into place. Re-establishing the pre-March Break routine a few days in advance can help smooth the transition for everyone. That said, parents should expect it will take a few days of being back at school before the regular routine fully gets back on track.

To help ensure your March Break is a positive experience for the whole family, consider having a discussion about everyone’s expectations during the week. This can help you plan your time and activities in a way that achieves compromise and creates something for everyone.

However your family approaches March Break, know that one size does not fit all – your family and their needs are unique and there are many ways to make this time as supportive and positive for everyone as possible.

The team at Whole Heart are here to help support adults, teens, children and families both in-person and virtually as you navigate this time and beyond.

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