December holidays have the potential to bring families together after a year of hard work, academic pressure and busy social schedules. However, with family members that have very specific, individual needs when it comes to relaxation – it gets tricky to accommodate everyone and ensure that quality family time still exists.
With December holidays right around the corner, now is the time to plan your various activities to keep your youngsters entertained and active. As the saying goes – “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
In a society where children under the age of five, are more likely to be able to play a computer game than tie their own shoes – parents must be aware of the fact that activities must be exciting and stimulating. Watching whales play in the ocean for two hours will not bring children closer to their parents, especially since they can have a similar experience with five minutes of YouTube or Nat Geo Wild. Parents are therefore challenged to come up with cost-effective, creative experiences that cannot be recreated by some form of technology.
According to numerous studies on personality types, it has long since been discovered that different people like to relax in different ways. Some crave physical activities in order to switch off and relax, while others delve into a book or watch television. There are also those who need to be around people and others who need alone time. With this in mind the task of striking a balance between outdoor activities, indoor activities and techno time becomes even more difficult. Remember to not forget the rules for techno time you use at home – just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you should allow anything and everything.
Here are some examples of healthy rules:
· Allow daily alone-techno time, but set boundaries. For example, everyone takes techno time at the same time, it only lasts for a certain amount of time, perhaps 90 minutes, and is only allowed when the sun is out.
· All devices should be treated equally. Back in the day, screen time meant TV time – now the average family has nearly two dozen screens under one roof which must be treated the same.
· Parents need to know what it means to be a good digital role model. Don’t check email and SMSes throughout the day, interrupting family time while expecting your children to put away their video games and ignore their friends on Facebook.
· Create a family tech zone. This should be a high-traffic space where you as the parent can easily supervise what your children are doing, watching and listening to.
As mentioned, it is good to plan fun-filled activities, from outdoor and indoor activities (anything from riding bikes to washing dishes) to tech time that you can do together as a family.
The following are some examples of tech time that you can do together (and should not be considered as part of alone-tech time):
· Create a digital scrapbook of your family holiday;
· Play a game where the family play against each other in teams (Wii or iPhone apps – or take it off line and play a real life boardgame)
· Take turns to write for a holiday Blog and share it at the dinner table;
· Watch each other’s favourite television program or movies together – obviously not all on one day;
· Compile a CD or iPod playlist, with songs contributed by each member of the family and ONLY listen to that list of songs when driving around in your car;
· Create a Facebook page for your extended family and encourage everyone to post photos and updates on what you or they are up to during the holidays;
· Recreate a meal from your favourite chef on the cooking channel;
· Read a story from your kindle before bedtime;
· Recreate “The Amazing Race” – each family member chooses a destination or website on the net and gives certain clues as to where they need to “go” in order to get to the destination.
· Do a YouTube comedy night where each family member shows their favourite video on YouTube OR make a funny video and upload it on YouTube
Have a good holiday. Enjoy everything you do together and remember to rather make eye contact than iContact. Let your children know that you treasure moments in which you can connect with them on an emotional level. Love them and create reasons for them to stay ‘signed in’ at home with you!
By Dr Pieter Streicher is Founder of ParentsCorner.org.za