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Productive Ways for Teens to Spend Winter Break – Away From the Screen
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Just when you finally developed a smooth fall routine with the right balance of school, work and family time, winter break arrives. And that can only mean one thing – your teen will be home looking for ways to occupy their time all day long.

Without a bit of planning, your teen will probably gravitate to the many screens around the house, particularly the television, computer, cell phone and iPod.

And while an hour or so of video game playing or television watching may be perfectly acceptable, there are many more productive ways to use winter break as a time for learning, fun and relationship-building.

Challenge Their Minds

  • School tests young minds in useful ways, but leaves a lot of room for additional growth and learning.
  • For some young people, simple activities can be surprisingly effective (such as reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, or taking a class at a local center or community college).
  • For others, more adventuresome options are the best (such as taking an outdoor adventure trip complete with ice fishing, skiing or rock climbing).
  • Whatever you choose, don’t forget that winter break can be a great time to develop a new skill and learn a few life lessons.

Volunteer

  • Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the community, while also bulking up your teen’s work or college application.
  • Particularly during the holiday season there are endless opportunities to dedicate time each week to a soup kitchen, church fundraiser, food bank or hospital, other cause that inspires your teen.
  • It’s never too early (or too late) to help your children develop a sense of (and an appreciation for) service to others.

Get Organized

  • Your busy teen has used homework, friends, extracurricular activities and anything else they could think of to get out of cleaning their room for the past few months.
  • But now there are no more excuses – there’s no better way to spend the day than organizing the mess, donating belongings they no longer use and creating a clutter-free study area.

Travel

  • If you have the time and budget, winter break is an ideal time for a family vacation.
  • Folks in cold-weather climates often prefer sunny, tropical destinations, but there are also a number of last-minute options such as ski trips or a road trip to visit family or friends.
  • Even a day trip (or an overnight excursion someplace close) can break the “cabin fever” and promote a sense of fun and togetherness within the family.

Relax

  • The weeks leading up to winter break can be a stressful time for teens.
  • Studying for final exams, buying gifts for family and friends, preparing for winter formal – all of these events can spark the need for a bit of rest and relaxation before resuming a hectic schedule in January.
  • There’s nothing wrong with allowing (or, if necessary), encouraging your children to enjoy some healthy “down time.”

Of course, relaxing doesn’t have to mean zoning out in front of the TV. There are healthier and more effective ways to unwind, such as journaling, playing in the snow or snuggling up with a book by the fireplace.

Schedule Quality Time as a Family

As winter sets in and the air grows colder, many families grudgingly begin to spend more time indoors. And though cold weather may have you feeling down, the trade-off is the warm feelings of kindness and togetherness that characterize the holiday season.

Even your typically distant teen is likely taken with the spirit of the season, which makes these next few months ideal for family bonding. A few times a week, schedule game nights, movie nights, a one-day ski trip and other activities that the whole family can do together.

Stay Engaged, Stay Positive, Stay Prepared

Though it’s easy to generalize about the joyfulness of the holiday season, the fact is that not all families look forward to this time of year. And for those families, feeling “different” from other families only accentuates the sorrow.

Research shows that school vacations are prime time for experimentation with drugs and alcohol and other risky teen behaviors. If the lack of structure and extra time spent at home during winter break means more reckless and rebellious behavior from your teen, you may need more than a family vacation to keep your teen safe.

However your family chooses to spend winter break, remember that a busy teen is happier and less likely to engage in risky behaviors than a teen who is glued to the screen all winter. So get creative and start planning today!