The Parents Guide On How to Spend Holidays for Students

Dr. Eric E. Schmidt, chairman of the Board and CEO of Google, ended his 2009 commencement speech to The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League University:

“And in a world where everything is remembered and everything is kept forever—the world you are in—you need to live for the future and the things that you really, really care about.

And what are those things? Well in order to know that, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us.

You’ll find that people really are the same all around the world. They really do care about the same things.”

As your teenager heads into finals and then the winter holiday break, encourage them to turn off their electronics and plan activities with people.

COVID has been relatively unstructured. There’s been a lot of disruption. But you’ll want your teenagers to schedule themselves over the break. You must not schedule them!

What Happens When Your Student Doesn’t Have A Schedule

Before we get into how to spend holidays for students, I want to warn what happens when your teenager goes into a break without a plan. 

Things seem to be opening up, but you don’t want to open up the floodgates and see disaster happen during this upcoming break. 

Free time isn’t always a good time.

Some seniors experience senioritis when they have an open-ended schedule.  

Now, we’re seeing COVIDitis. 

People are going to do stupid things. If the law gets involved and charges are pressed, college acceptances may be revoked.

When they are no longer minors, freedom has more weight. There are consequences and permanent records. Please make them aware of these facts and consequences in a gentle way that invites them to make wise decisions. 

6 Ideas On How To Spend Holidays For Students

So now we know what happens when you don’t have a plan, let’s get into how to spend holidays for students. 

As teenagers are preparing to leave for college, they will go one of two ways… They will either start to pull away – anticipating that they’ll be gone soon enough. Or they’ll socialize like never before. It’s important to find a happy medium between both. They need to start leaning into the next phase of their lives, while still making memories.

Create A Schedule Or Plan

First and foremost… Your student needs to learn how to schedule or plan their time. An extended holiday break is a great way to start practicing scheduling their life.  

Encourage your student to schedule (preferably using a smartphone calendar) at least one thing a day. This creates a structure for your student, teaches them to manage their time wisely, and makes sure they don’t waste one of the last breaks they’ll get. 

A schedule will have tasks that may seem mundane, like work, but it also contains fun activities that we look forward to. Create a calendar full of anticipation and even deep yearning instead of panic and lack of preparation.  

Plan Positive Activities

Once they have that calendar up and running, your student needs to fill it with positive activities.

Without the pressure of school, they can finally do things that they didn’t have time to do during the semester. That can include:

  • Getting a job
  • Helping a neighbor with a home project
  • Learning a new skill like cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, gardening, building something, soldering, changing a tire, or just plain old doing laundry!
  • House sitting or pet sitting
  • Hiking at a local park (there are some great walking trails in and around Houston)
  • Exercising or even training for a marathon or other physical challenge
  • My favorite one is for a teenager to take the challenge to get involved in a lonely person’s life.

Have An Escape Route

During a longer break, your teenager would be smart to have an “escape route” or activity that allows them to get time and space to themselves. They may read a book or take a walk. Whatever it is, have them identify it and let them escape when pressures from holidays with relatives, travel, or typical holiday stressors surface. 

Interview Your Family

Another great thing to do is to memorialize your family and to get advice from those that have “been there, done that”. Encourage your teenager to make a list of questions they want answers to. 

By now, they’ve finished their college essays on very personal things. If they aren’t done with those topics, have them ask their siblings, friends, grandparents, etc. the same essay questions. They won’t be sorry that they spent that time with grandma. Even taking photos and recording/videoing these conversations will help mitigate homesickness someday too!

(Tune into episode 16 at 16:44 to hear a fun exercise you can try out.)

This practice turns into something that they’ll cherish. It creates a sweet bond between those closest to you or even relatively new acquaintances. Someone in your community center, church, or check with a local nursing home for seniors who are shut-in. During the pandemic, these people have been hardest hit with loneliness and would welcome a visitor. Just bring a hand-written note, some grocery store flowers to cheer those who are shut-in. Even if you’re not able to visit them in person, their life will be touched.

It’s the smallest things that matter.

Learn Something New

2020 has been extraordinary – and the academic year has had frequent challenges, too. So as we enter into an extended holiday break, it’s easy to throw up our hands and give up on learning. However, we’ve found that it’s counterproductive. Don’t ever stop learning!

Instead of learning something new academically, learn how to play chess, bake a cake, or sail a boat. 

All students need to learn how to cook and how to do their laundry before they leave their home. You can also learn some practical things over a break – like changing a tire, sewing on a button, or landscaping. 

Start New Traditions

Another great way to make the most out of the holiday break is to start new traditions. Your senior (or high schooler) is watching their last days in your home tick by. Encourage them to set some new traditions that they can continue for years to come. There’s a theme in them taking responsibility.

That could look like them hosting a Secret Santa with their friends or camping at a local state park.

Reminder: Teenagers Are Fearless

Remember, teenagers maintain a bold mentality. They’ll say…

“I won’t get pregnant.” 

“I won’t get arrested.”

“I’m bulletproof.”

And… “I won’t catch COVID.” 

It’s critical that they have a focus for their upcoming extended holiday break so they don’t end up on the wrong side.

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