Navigating Spring Break as a Family

Navigating Spring Break as a Family

Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.

Gustav Mahler

Spring break is nearly here!

You made it!

So, why does it all feel so hard?

Today we’re sharing simple strategies to help the whole family navigate 2 common spring break challenges:

1) Spring break overwhelm

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.

Anne Lamott

It never fails…

The countdown has been going for weeks (maybe months…).
The last of the quarter’s schoolwork has been finished.
The final email has been sent.

And that’s when it hits.

Whether it comes in the form of toddler meltdowns, teen blowups, or parents face-planting on the sofa, your family is dealing with emotional overwhelm.

Kids experiencing spring break overwhelm:

  • Transition gently. All that hype and build-up to spring break? Fun as it may be, it can set your child up for serious overwhelm. So, try pumping the breaks on the celebrations until you’ve all had a day or two to ease into the time off.
  • Make self-care a priority. Spring break is the perfect time to balance out our everyday stresses with self-care. Ask your kids what they struggle with most during the school week. Then pick self-care activities that fit. Are early mornings a challenge? Try sleeping in over break. Too much rushing around after school? Enjoy a slower pace this week with a movie day or crafts at home. Is it tough to sit still in class? Leave lots of room for movement and play over break.

Teens experiencing spring break overwhelm:

  • Create space. If spring break is your family’s chance to enjoy some rare quality time, it’s natural to feel tempted to force the “togetherness” expectation a bit. But most teens (and parents) can benefit from some breathing room now and then. So, try giving everyone space to retreat on their own for awhile. You may be surprised how soon they actually choose to rejoin the group.
  • Plan judiciously. As nice as a week of family time might sound, it simply may not be realistic this year. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any family time, however. Ask your teen to choose one or two plans (even if that plan is “down time” at home) from the ones you’ve made for the family. Make those plans a priority, enjoy them, and then let go of any other expectations for the break. Your teen (and the rest of the family) will thank you.

Parents experiencing spring break overwhelm:

  • Set limits. So, your kids are on spring break, but you’re not? That can be tricky. But, there still might be an opportunity for you to experiment with setting boundaries around your time and work hours. Maybe it’s setting an email auto-responder on the weekend. Or turning down an extra project this week. Give it some thought and see what works best for you.
  • Recharge your batteries. When was the last time you sat and talked, uninterrupted, with your partner? Or called your best friend? Or took a stroll through Target (ALONE. Just for fun.)? Spring break is a great time to meet all those basic needs you’ve been neglecting in the busyness of daily life.

2) Spring break underwhelm

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

“Why can’t WE go to Disney World?!”
“A family road trip? SERIOUSLY…?”
“Did you see where the Andersens are staying this week? It must be costing them a fortune!” 

Whether it stems from boredom, jealousy, or plain old FOMO (i.e., fear of missing out), there’s often temptation to see our friends’ and neighbors’ proverbial grass as greener than our own.

And that’s a joy killer.


  • Grab the teachable moment. Not all families have the same time, health, custody arrangements, or resources, so not all family “breaks” look the same. This can be a challenging topic to broach with children, but it can lead to some important education and skill-building. Be patient, and speak simply in words that your child can understand.     
  • Cultivate gratitude. As Melody Beattie said, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Even young children can benefit from the simple practice of listing a few things they’re thankful for.
  • Follow curiosity. A healthy curiosity is one of life’s most potent antidotes to boredom. What are your kids into these days? What do they ask you about? Encourage them to spend time over break exploring whatever sparks their curiosity.
    • Spending break out of town? Help your kids find an activity or day trip on a topic they’re interested in.
    • Sticking close to home? Take your child to the library or a local museum where they can deepen their knowledge of their favorite topic.
    • Wherever you’re spending this break… give your kids a chance to document their experiences. Give them a notebook and colored pencils. Lend them your phone (set to airplane mode to avoid distractions!) to snap some photos of their own. You’ll be amazed how fun it can be to revisit the break later from their perspective.


  • Enlist their help. If you’re the one who usually plans activities for the kids in your family, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to entertain the whole gang. But the fact is your teen is more than capable of making their own fun. So, try to view the responsibility for spring break planning as a shared one. Enlist everyone’s help, and watch the complaining fade.
  • Pay attention to boredom. Before you react in anger when your teen says, “I’m borrrred!” for the hundredth time, pause to consider what they’re really trying to tell you. Often, “boredom” is a scapegoat for something else, like inattention, excess energy, or a simple lack of inspiration. Maybe they need some quiet time to help them focus. Or a ride to the park or local “Y”. Or a part-time job. Put yourself in your teen’s high-tops for moment, and then help them find the solution they’re looking for.


  • Check yourself before you wreck your… chances at happiness. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the comparison game is often harder for parents to quit than it is for our kids. (And your kids are watching, more closely than you think.) So, give social media a rest. Put down your phone. Stop talking about the vacation album your neighbors just posted, and take a moment to savor the people right there in front of you. Their spring break memories (and yours) are just waiting to be made. Enjoy!

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Spring Cleaning for Your Emotional Wellness
Unplug Your Way to Emotional Wellness
Holiday Boundary Setting

Need some help navigating spring break (and beyond)?