Despite the work delays, school cancellations and traffic standstills, snow days can be a surprisingly productive opportunity to build upon your child's social, emotional learning and resilience skills. After all, these skills help children not only in school but also in life - now and for their future. They help children form relationships with others (attachment), explore and be independent (initiative), and control strong emotions (self-regulation).
Here are five ways parents can use snow days to help build their child's resilience:
1. Enjoy your child
For all of their inconvenience, resist the tempatation to view snow days as meaning you will be "stuck" at home together. Instead, take this unexpected time to really enjoy your child's company.
- Unplug: Turn of the television and computer (if you are lucky enough to have power) and ask your child to play cards, a board game, bake cookies or some other fun activity that you think they might enjoy.
- Catch up: Use the time together to talk with your child about events happening at school, updates on their friends, and their feelings. Focus on listening and enjoying the conversation.
- Play, create, imagine: To build their sense of initiative, try playing a game of charades. The ability to be imaginative and expressive relates to resilience. Continue to encourage children's creative expression through this fun game of pretend-play. After all, imagination is how children's dreams and hopes for tomorrow are created!
2. Involve your child
As you think about the snow that needs to be shoveled, the lunch that needs to be made and the extra laundry that piles up during these storms, think about all of the activities as opportunities to spend time with your children. No matter their age, children can participate in each of these activities. While sometimes it may seem easier to do them yourself, seeing these daily routines as opportunities to spend time with your children can be refreshing. Give it a try and see how ordinary mundane tasks can be reframed as fun, intimate experiences.
3. Help a neighbor
Snow days can provide wonderful opportunities to teach children important life lessons. Invite your child to call on a neighbor who may be alone in the snow. Perhaps your family can help shovel their driveway, bring over a cup of hot chocolate and spend time visiting, or invite a child out to play in the snow. Show your children the value of helping others and talk about how it also helps us feel better about ourselves.
4. Build their identity
Have your child create an "All about Me" book. Your child's self-concept comes from defining who he is and what makes him similar to and different from other people. Through illustrating his very own profile of himself, your child's All About Me book will show him just how special he is amongst all the other peers at school.
5. Make a fort
Children benefit from knowing there is a safe place to retreat to when they are overwhelmed or need a break from the group. Just like adults, children need their own space to relax from time to time! Especially on a day with a lot of togetherness, you might find your child enjoying a little retreat throughout the day. Try helping your child build a fort with pillows, cardboard boxes, sheets and whatever else you find lying around the house.
Source: The Devereux Center for Resilient Children, one of the largest nonprofit behavioral healthcare organizations in the country dedicated to promoting social and emotional development, fostering resilience and building skills for school and life success in children.