When it comes to media, there are few things I hate more than the voice of SpongeBob. And when it comes to my kids, there are few words I dread more than hearing them say “I’m bored.” I would describe both, in a kind way, as “soul crushing.”
Spring Break is upon us, and with it comes the threat of hearing those two awful words even more than usual. As parents, we feel guilty if our response to “I’m bored” is to simply let them watch a movie or play on the tablet. Yet, we all do it. We all cave because sometimes, well, it’s just not worth the fight. And it’s even worse over Spring Break when they have an entire week of nothing to do.
This year, however, let’s change things. Let’s take back Spring Break from the media.
One thing I learned long ago is that if I make a decision once, I don’t have to make that decision again. I’ve found that this works with parenting. If we decide on a rule about media use once, we worry less about having to make a decision about whether or not to let our kids use media in the moment that they ask. Because, invariably, the moment they ask will be a weak moment, a moment when you just want to be done being a parent, when you don’t ever want to answer another question again. But if the rule is set ahead of time, the temptation to give in to requests to lounge away Spring Break in front of the TV or on the tablet is less. And with less temptation, there is less giving into temptation, which means less parenting guilt. How we all need less parenting guilt.
So, here are a few ideas for proactively setting some Spring Break media ground rules:
- Set a specific amount of time your kids are allowed to watch TV, use their phone, or play on the tablet. Then, let them decide when to use that time. A total of an hour per day (all three combined, not each) might be a good starting point.
- Help your kids brainstorm non-media things they’d like to do over Spring Break, and post the list on the refrigerator for easy reference during weak moments.
- Plan a Spring Break movie night—designate one evening during Spring Break for a family movie night, complete with popcorn and sugary drinks (I prefer A&W root beer). This will give your kids something to look forward to when they just can’t decide how to spend their time in the middle of the week.
Whatever rules you decide, the key is to talk about them with your kids before Spring Break, and to help them understand why you have the rules.
There you have it. The magic formula for saving your soul from being crushed by the Spring Break media blues. Taking back Spring Break from the media can be less of a hassle with a little bit of proactive media planning.