Discuss activities and safety precautions while your kids are out of school.
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Girls enjoying holidays with young man and woman on couch
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Reinventing holiday traditions has been a big priority as families look to stay safe at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And with winter break soon approaching, planning out activities for children will be an especially involved experience this year. "I would suggest families err on the side of caution and plan their celebrations sheltering in place," says Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, parent and family coach. While she acknowledges that this can require more thought and creativity, it will allow you to celebrate safely whether you have a household of children, teenagers, or college-age kids who are visiting for their break. "One suggestion would be to sit down with the whole family to brainstorm a list of activities each member would find fun and entertaining," adds Benaroya. "Keep the conversation light and help set expectations about what is possible this year." In fact, the list can help you focus on the things you can do (COVID-permitting) and give you something to mark on your calendar.

Here, we asked for more insight on how to plan out your time with kids for winter break.

Discuss ways to remain safe.

Particularly for parents with older children, Benaroya recommends thinking in advance about their time at home for winter break. "Before older children come to visit, it can be helpful to have a conversation and create a shared agreement about safety precautions you necessitate in your home," she shares. This could include taking a COVID-19 test before coming home. "For other families, it is getting clear about how kids can or can't socialize outside the family unit," she explains. "Many college students and young adults returning home are hoping to reconnect with friends and that may not be an option this holiday season." If limiting the social gatherings is something you would like to make a priority, then you will need to talk specifics—like limiting the number of people they are exposed to and where they can meet with friends. "It is important that these expectations are set long before they return home in order to avoid conflict when they arrive," says Benaroya.

Otherwise, this winter, keeping up with the latest guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help your family stay safe. "The statuses of our communities are constantly changing, so it's important to be aware of the most recent updates," notes Benaroya. "In general, limiting interactions with people outside of your family, wearing a mask when outside the home, routinely washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes are a few solid ways to protect you, your family, and others that you may come in contact with."

Celebrate new and old traditions.

When planning winter break, Benaroya suggests getting outside for socially distanced activities (like playing at a park or driving through holiday light shows). According to a study by Positive Psychology, time spent in the great outdoors can help with well-being and the feelings of social isolation—particularly now during the pandemic. "Since most children are spending more time than ever inside, spending time outside, in a front yard, or at a local park can help with a child's ability to regulate their emotions and reduce stress," she says.

Uphold generational traditions and take this as an opportunity to create some new ones for the holidays. Benaroya says you can keep up your usual celebratory practices or adjust them to abide by COVID-related regulations if need be. Plus, new traditions can include everything from crafting and baking to physical activities and community service. "Family traditions are a worthwhile investment of time because they can strengthen family bonds, teach your family's values, offer children support and security, and provide a source of identity," she shares. And this goes for younger and older children. The little ones can enjoy decorating the house with festive accents and reading bedtime stories. Older children will love adult board games, a movie marathon, or even rotating the chef for each night's dinner.

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