Real Life Ideas for How to Grab a Break

by Julia H.

Today we bring you segment 175,996 out of our infinitely long series of discussions about getting through tricky times with kids (after all, getting through the easy times is easy!). This time, we asked real members of the BFCP community what they do when they need a few minutes to breathe, reconnect, and calm themselves in those moments when your coping skills and normal routine just aren't cutting it. Here's mine - when I just need a bit of a breather, I take a few minutes to floss and brush my teeth. It probably sounds a little crazy, but it makes a big difference that I can't talk while I am doing it, because that gives me time to stop and think when I might otherwise yell or say something hurtful. Here are some other strategies being employed by people right here in our school - thanks to everyone who contributed their coping strategies!

  • "Occasionally I just put the kids in the bath in the middle of the day. It helps that my tub is bigger so it feels like a treat for them. But it keeps them contained for a bit."
  • "Sometimes if I need a break I pack everyone up and take a little drive to a park, coffee stand or store that a bit farther away than usual. We can still chat or listen to music but I get to SIT which is NICE. Plus the kiddos are restrained in the nicest way possible.  I also do the mid day bath time and it works like a charm."
  • "Especially if it's early on the morning I'll call a reset. Everyone goes back in their bed and we all get a few minutes to chill. When I'm ready, I open doors and give a super cheery good morning. I don't know why it works but it does for us."
  • "I was going crazy over the holidays with both [kids] home all day, every day and I found if I scheduled at least one activity outside of the house each day we all stayed a little bit more sane. Cabin fever is real!"
  • "Making sure the kids get time outdoors to run and play seems to help us."
  • "Sometimes just getting a simple task done - like taking the garbage out - is my way of taking a break. I also have a few activities that are a big treat for my kid but are truthfully my break time - playdough and a Rubbermaid sensory 'rice bin.' If I can’t take a break in that moment, planning when I will ask for/scheduling a break also helps me."
  • "I call a 'Dance Party' and lean on my favorite new friend Alexa. The music cranks out some of our current favorite dance tunes (currently Flying Purple People Eater, Fight Song, We Built This City, and Cupig Shuffle ) The kids all jump up and start dancing together and I can either 1. join them and dance away my frustration, or 2. Step in the other room and take a few minutes to myself while they everyone is engaged and happy."

How do you deal with overwhelming moments? Send us an email and your tips may be included in a future Squeak!

The sneaky self-comparison connection between being grateful and developing positive self-image

by Julia H.

So, I kid you not, there I was, on Facebook during the school break looking at everyone's holiday pictures. In our household, I tend to be the parent who is responsible for creating the holiday magic - I make costumes at Halloween, help get Valentine's cards signed and sorted out for classroom celebrations, and, in December, I make or otherwise acquire, wrap, and display the gifts, stuff the stockings, put up lights, etc. So, looking at everyone else's holiday displays, it was very difficult not to compare my efforts to everyone else's. Wow, Audrey and Chris's pile of gifts is HUGE, I didn't even think to decorate cookies like Eric and Jay did, and wow, Amy's house is so clean, and she's a single mom working two jobs, how does she even manage that? Every time I thought about how my efforts stacked up to those of others, it left me feeling worse, with my efforts seeming more meager by comparison. It was heading to a bad place, and quickly. And, more than that, I thought about how soon enough my kids would be heading back to school, where, undoubtedly, they would be hearing stories about other kids' holiday extravaganzas. How could I protect them from feeling the way I did when I compared our holiday to everyone else's.

Taking a step away from the internet, I thought about what made me feel good about our holiday efforts, things like the fact that, this year, I made a lot of our gifts by hand, that we made more time to connect with our friends during the holiday break than we had in previous years. All the examples I could think of involved making a self-comparison, between myself and my efforts now, and myself and my efforts in previous years. Because these comparisons let me reflect on how I've changed, it's easy to see things in a more positive light. Turns out there's lots of psychological research to back this up - if you're interested in going down a rabbit hole, you can read all about Social Comparison Theory (originally proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s).

So, how can we help kids to avoid comparing their holiday gifts, and, by extension, themselves, to others? And what can we do when our kids tell us that so-and-so got a brand new ipad, and why didn't they?

  • Establish a family tradition where you practice self-comparisons. It's New Year's, why not take a moment to ask everyone in the family what is something that they feel like they are better at this year than they were last year?

  • Acknowledge that, yes, there are differences between what your child received as a gift, is capable of doing without help, or whatever the comparison to another person might be, then redirect to a more appropriate self-comparison. "Yes, they got an ipad. Do you remember what gifts you received? Which gift was your favorite? What is something that you really like about that gift?"

  • If your child is worried that someone is better at some skill than they are, it might be worth talking about practice and how it impacts skill - but also talk about the importance of fun. "Yes, Colton is better at soccer than you. Colton plays soccer every day for at least an hour a day, and when you do something a lot, you tend to get better at it. Do you have fun when you play soccer? Is it something you want to do more, and practice to get better, or do you like it just the way it is?"
  • Model positive self-comparison, and, if you find yourself comparing yourself to others, try to frame it in a context of positive self comparison. "Wow, I really wish I could decorate our house the way our neighbors do each year. But, you know what? I decided to spend my time making gifts instead of buying them at the store, and I feel good about that. It meant I didn't have as much time for fancy decorations, but I am still really proud of the work that I did."

How do you help teach your kids not to compare themselves to others? Send your tips to and you may be featured in a future Squeak!

Oh gosh it's almost winter break and I haven't bought a present for Aunt Linda and I really should decorate the house and I don't know how to keep my kids busy! HELP!!

by Julia H.

At this point in December, there's a part of my brain that looks at my to-do list and just emits a high-pitched whining sound that threatens never to stop from the sheer number and complexity of things I have on my plate. Knowing that, once the school break starts, I will have something like zero sane, quiet hours in which to accomplish those tasks only serves to exacerbate the state of mental disequilibrium until I am seriously tempted to build a couch cushion fort and hide inside in a fist-clenched holiday panic.

My own internal response might be a little more dramatic than yours, but a lot of parents and caregivers do get stressed around the winter holidays...and that's okay and reasonable! We are allowed to experience the full range of emotions! If, however, the stress threatens to overwhelm you, here are some things that might help you slow down a little.

  1. It is okay (and even good) for kids to be bored! While they may complain for a while, usually if you leave them to their own ideas, they will eventually come up with some creative and imaginative play - exactly the sort of unstructured free play that helps with so many areas of cognitive development.

  2. It helps to lower your expectations. Are there any items on your to do list that are especially causing you worry? Can you...and I know this sounds crazy, but...can you just skip it? Or maybe scale it down a little? Maybe hard-to-shop-for Aunt Linda gets a gift card or an invitation to a family dinner in January. Maybe you can choose not to decorate your house this year. Chances are, if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety over a particular task, it can be toned down, modified, or delegated to someone who loves that sort of thing (and I will totally shop for Aunt Linda if you need someone!).

  3. Your kids can help more than you think! This is especially true if you are willing to factor in the expectation-lowering from step 2. Sending holiday cards? Holy moly, you really are on top of things! Your kids can stuff the envelopes, stick or tape printed labels to envelopes, and apply stamps! Decorating for the holidays? They can hang ornaments, make and hang paper garlands, cut out paper snowflakes, etc. Thinking about all the different steps involved in achieving a particular holiday task goal can help you find elements that are kid-friendly.
  4. It's okay to ask for help! Sometimes there is one stubborn item on the to-do list that just resists completion because it's simply impossible to do without help. Maybe that help is in the form of asking someone to hang with your kids for an hour, seeing if a neighbor can put up hooks for holding holiday decorations, or seeing if a friend who is heading to the post office can put your packages into the outgoing mailbox. Regardless of how it manifests, asking for help doesn't mean that you failed somehow! It just means you found a method to get things done that worked for you and your family, and that's awesome! 

Have any other holiday tips? Send them to me, and you might be featured in a future Weekly Squeak! (Bonus request: have a favorite holiday song? I'm building a holiday playlist for my kids and would love to include your favorites!)

Easing the Transition: Helping your kids switch back to their school routine

By Julia H.

After a summer full of play, relaxed routines, and (relatively) flexible schedules, it can be tricky (for kids and caregivers, too!) to switch back into school mode. Here are some tips to aid the transition:

  • Is your child nervous? You can use roleplay to practice aspects of school that seem intimidating to help your child build confidence before school starts!

  • Are you nervous? That's okay and normal, too! Children are perceptive and know when their caregivers are feeling sensitive. If your child can handle it, you can talk openly about your worries, and what you are doing to manage them. If your child isn't ready for that kind of conversation, try to make time to do things that help you feel calm.
  • Although it's fun to add celebratory back-to-school family activities, you might want to have them before school starts, or wait until a few weeks into the school year. Returning to school can be tiring, and adding extra activities might prove to be a little too much to handle! Waiting can make things easier on everyone.

For more tips, check out this article from PBS. Have any great tips we missed? Email me and they may be featured in a future Squeak!