By Michael Oberschneider
“snOMG,” “snowmageddon”, “snowpocalypse”, and “kaisersnoze” are a few terms to describe what meteorologists are telling us is about to happen in Northern Virginia. And while many children and teens gladly anticipate the predicted massive snow storm that is coming our way, there is a sense of reservation for many parents.
Scrambling to buy last minute food items, taking off work or managing a work schedule from home (with your kids home from school), keeping your child or children entertained, shoveling snow, driving on icy or snowy roads are but a few realties that many of us may have to deal with in the coming days.
So, what’s the solution? While you cannot control the weather, you can control how you manage yourself and your family. Consider these few tips as the snowflakes begin to fall:
Get out of your own head and see the positive of the moment. Yes, as a parent you may be overwhelmed, and you may also now need to balance more with your children, especially if there are school snow days next week. But try to remember what a snow day felt like when you were a child. I grew up in a small town outside of Chicago, and some of my fondest childhood memories involved snow days and all the things I did for fun with my siblings and parents.
Create some snow day traditions. Making a snow man, snow angels, building a snow fort, making snow ice cream (there are plenty of recipes on-line), sledding, a snowball fight, etc. Simply bundle up your kids, open the door and let them play until their hearts are content. Maybe go ice-skating as a family. There is the Ashburn Ice House for indoor skating and the Reston Town Center for outdoor skating to consider nearby. After time in the snow, perhaps s’mores, hot chocolate or baking something delicious might be a fun family activity. Board games or maybe movies in PJ’s are nice ways to get cozy and keep it fun.
Take advantage of the time you now have with your children to get things done. If the coming snow storm causes school to be cancelled early next week, snow days are an excellent time to get those doctor and dentist appointments for your children checked off your to-do list. There might be some family chores or tasks that everyone could do together. You might also pack the kids in the car to run the many errands you need to get done but haven’t had the time for. Perhaps you could compromise with lunch or some frozen yogurt out to make the time doing errands more agreeable to your kids.
Extend your children’s screen time. As we all know, most children and teens enjoy video games and social media. So, relax your rules and restrictions a little to let your children have extended fun with their screens. The more social and interactive you can make your children’s screen time the better. Show some interest in your children’s games, and maybe even grab a controller and jump in as a parent. You could also use this time and opportunity to introduce your children to educational apps and games. Family movie time is a great idea too.
Encourage down time. Snow days can be over stimulating for all involved – including parents! And too much excitement without enough structure can lead to fights, behavioral problems and punishments. Reading, draw, arts and crafts are a few quiet activities to consider in between the more active fun moments.
Set-up play dates. Encourage your older children to spend time with their friends both outside and inside, and use your parent network to set-up play dates for your younger children. If you work from home early next week (or just for your own piece of mind), there may be blocks of time where you will want the noise level lowered and the kids out of the house. Planning ahead with other parents for this can be a great help.
Get some schoolwork done. If your children are out of school for an extended period of time due to the storm, staying on top of homework, projects or assignments or review is a good thing to do.
So, with the imminent approaching snow storm, try to remember to keep things in perspective and enjoy the extra time with your children. Most of us work very long hours in Northern Virginia, and we don’t get to spend as much time with our children as we’d like. Whether it’s Snowmageddon II or just a few inches, embrace the moment!
[Michael Oberschneider is the founder and director of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services.]