Ways to keep kids engaged and unplugged during the holidays

Image of children painting
Winter break is great time to bond with our kids and reengage our own minds. Boston Children's shares ideas how. (Image: Adobe Stock)

The winter holiday break is upon us. This means being away from routines and schedules and more time at home, traveling, or visiting loved ones. Bottom line: families will be spending more time together (again). So, how can we find ways to put down our phones and engage in the yuletide cheer together?

Join in what sparks joy or motivates your kids

I often ask parents to investigate what will appeal enough to their kids that they’re willing to step away from their screens. Then I recommend to parents to take part in whatever that is. Maybe it’s a sport, music, cooking, or another hobby. Think about what’s the easiest way to draw your kids out enough to do something you can take part in.

Go outside

Ride a bike, take a walk, throw a football, play in the snow. Just being outside decreases depression, which is especially important during the winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight.

Let them teach you something

It may actually involve a screen — like a video game or graphic design, but kids – perhaps unknowingly — tend to respond well to being able to teach someone about their passion. Try asking how your child how to play their favorite video game or how to make a TikTok video. Before you know it, you could be spending hours together.

Accept small victories

Even if it’s a car ride, running errands, or baking or preparing a meal, I applaud any activity that gets families in one place. So many events this time of year involve shopping or cooking — embrace these fleeting times as chances to be together, even if there isn’t deep conversation involved.

Be realistic

Phones and devices have become ingrained parts of our existence. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect to be able to abandon them altogether. So, as parents, we won’t have much success if our focus is on stopping device use completely; we will be more productive if we focus on how to help our kids manage screen time.

This may mean completing household tasks before using devices, putting phones in a designated spot during meals or before bed, or not bringing phones with you on errands or family outings. Kids may love it after a while or completely hate it. Both are ok. As parents, it’s not our job to constantly make our kids happy. We have to be able to set and stick to limits and be able to tolerate any discomfort that may come as a result.

Learn more about how the Division of Adolescent Medicine/Young Adult Medicine cares for physical, psychological, and social conditions and concerns specific to adolescents and young adults, including how the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders (CIMAID) helps address Problematic Interactive Media Use.

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