Making Good Use of Time Off From School

By Esther Simon

As the winter holidays approach, many mothers look forward to meaningful family time. They are happy to be relieved of the pressures of getting their children ready for school in the morning, making lunches and doing homework.

Holiday time can also be a chance to teach some new skills while assessing the strengths of each child.

Projects and Activities

For example, a day off can be an opportunity for a child to create a menu and prepare breakfast by themselves. You could suggest they try to make things like eggs, waffles, toast or cut-up fruit, and to prepare breakfast for the family.

To help organize the effort, create a family chart of tasks, and keep track of the process and success.

Older children can sort the laundry and carry it to the laundry area. Everyone can make their own beds and make sure the bathrooms are tidy. The older ones can wash the family car, and the younger ones can water the plants or the lawn.

What would motivate such a project? For each family, it would be something different. Perhaps it would be a family vacation, a long-awaited prize or just a feeling of deep satisfaction. Teenagers can create incentives that they feel their younger siblings may appreciate and can even reward them.

You could even team up with another family or a group of families. For example, each family could invite a few friends for a homemade dinner cooked by the children, organize a car wash or host a yard sale with all their old toys and books.

Families could have sports night, get together with others to write a play, bake a cake or plan a charity project. Think outside the box for a unique holiday experience.

Emotional Learning by Example

In addition to practical life skills, this can also be a special time to teach emotional health. We are the best example for our children on a daily basis. They are watching our every move, mood and behavior.

On a regular day, we may get caught up in criticizing, complaining or judging, which can cause conflict in relationships with our children and husbands.

Instead, substitute praise and compliments as often as possible. What would the atmosphere be like?

While you are teaching life skills, try to also promote positive verbal connections while instilling Torah values. For example, what situation can we see in the parsha this week that will serve as a good example? What can we learn from matriarchs, ancestors and past experiences to give us more meaning in our daily routines?

We know that Hashem wants us to parent with love, joy and enthusiasm. If we as parents model a positive attitude, it will shine and pour over to our children. 

For this to be successful, we must first take care of ourselves. Find something that makes you happy and fulfilled. This self-care will help you not be resentful for the chores that you must do, and in return help you spread joy and positive energy to your family.

I have found that when I take care of myself, I am less likely to be upset around my family because I am in a better place emotionally. Whenever I feel worn out or exhausted, I may lash out at my husband and kids. When I take time to nurture myself and take good care of my needs, however, I am much more pleasant to be around and a better role model.

Take this precious time to teach your kids the importance of patience, taking care of oneself, and giving to each other with a full heart. Let’s make the most of the winter holidays and warm our homes with love, support and gratitude.

Esther Simon, MSW, is a professional home organizer for the past 23 years. She is a member of NAPO and a mother of seven. Learn more at:

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