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Family Life

Holiday Pampering for You and Your Student

Kate Harveston

Does preparing for the holidays leave you panting? You might feel stressed this time of year for many reasons. If your student is home from school, why not indulge in some pampering for you both?

You don't need to spend a lot of money to revitalize mind and body. Spending time with those you love boosts your mood.

Here are nine ways to refresh body and spirit over winter break!

1. Try a new fitness class together.

Do you resign yourself to gaining a few pounds this time of year? Both you and your student can avoid falling into a winter slump by signing up for a class at the gym (virtually if your local fitness center is closed or at reduced occupancy because of the pandemic) or finding a class online over Zoom.

When you attend a class with your student, you’ll feel less intimidated — you can try the new workouts together and giggle at each other's mistakes.

2. Have a favorite movie marathon.

You can learn a lot about someone from the movies they love.

Spend a Saturday having a marathon of favorites with your college student. Discuss why you enjoy the films you've chosen. Ask questions like, "Which character do you relate to most?" Listen carefully to their replies — without having to pry too much, you may glean something about what they’re experiencing at this stage of their lives.

3. Make homemade gifts.

Creating something together is a great bonding experience for you and your student. Americans love giving and receiving homemade gifts; why not get in on the fun? Friends and relatives will appreciate the time and care you put into making something with your hands.

You could learn to knit and make scarves and hats (perfect beginner projects). If you enjoy painting, take an art class together and then have fun Christmas morning placing signed masterpieces under the tree for those you love. If you celebrate Hanukkah you might get super crafty and have a homemade gift for each night of the holiday! Are the winter holidays already in the rearview mirror? Think Valentine's Day!

4. Throw a do-good party.

The abundance of the holidays can serve as a reminder to care for those less fortunate. Why not turn giving back into a celebration?

You and your student might create gift bags for the homeless containing essential items like personal hygiene products, socks and gloves. Or make decorations to drop off for members of a local nursing home.

Another nice option is to pool money among your family members and purchase a gift for a child living in poverty through Toys for Tots, the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program, Salvation Army or Pay Away the Layaway.

5. Unplug from social media.

The holidays can be hard for those of us who've lost loved ones. It can also be a financial strain if we feel we need to spend on gifts that perhaps we can't actually afford. If you've been feeling a bit blue, you may feel worse when you see your friends posting pictures of their joy and celebrations online.

Treat yourself and your student to a social media break. Read books. Play board games. Go outside together on a clear night and count the stars. You'll renew your connection with yourself and one another instead of feeling anxious or triggered by the goings-on in the rest of the world.

6. Learn to give a proper massage.

Few things help a student shed the stress of last semester like a good shoulder rub!

Consider inviting your student to take a trip to the spa together or buy some at-home massage gear. This could be one of their holiday gifts — you might even make it a goal to learn this ancient healing art together.

As you gain skill, you may both find you’ve found a new hobby, or even something you could pursue as a side gig. Either way, you'll be more relaxed by the end of it!

7. Create an at-home spa experience.

No need to shell out for a professional pedicure. Buy a new cat litter pan and some nail care supplies from your local dollar store. Sprinkle rose petals and Epsom salts in the tub for a relaxing soak.

Next step: slough off dry skin with a homemade sugar and coconut oil exfoliant. Rub in lotion to moisturize and heal any cracks. Paint your piggies in seasonal colors or any hues that delight your fancy. Whether your student wants the full treatment or just the foot soak and scrub, it’ll be fun to spend the time together.

8. Embark on a yoga or meditation practice.

Yoga stretches both your body and your mind. The word comes from the Sanskrit and means "union." Many different forms of this practice exist. If you enjoy a vigorous workout, give Bikram yoga a try. For gentle stretching, attend to a Hatha class. There are plenty of options for yoga beginners online.

Teach your student how to start each day the right way with meditation. You can find mindfulness podcasts on YouTube for free. Spend five minutes in quiet visualization every morning, and you'll feel better the whole day through.

These kinds of techniques can prove invaluable when your student goes back to school and needs to remember to relax and refocus every so often when times get stressful.

9. Volunteer in your community.

‘Tis the season to give back. Food pantries and homeless shelters are in need of donations, and you and your student will gain a greater appreciation for your own holiday feasts! Plus it’s an excellent bonding experience for the both of you.

Do you love animals? Shelter pets have little reason to feel the holiday cheer, so volunteer together to walk dogs or socialize cats. You may even fall in love with a new family member — adopting a shelter pet will be one more reason to feel merry! Just be sure you’re ready for the commitment, especially if your student is thinking they’d like a pet in their off-campus home.

The holidays don't need to center on frantic last-minute rushes for gifts.

By following a few simple steps, you can make the season about reconnecting with loved ones — your returning college student included — while treating yourself to some much-needed holiday pampering!

We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and receive a small fee when purchases are made through links to and affiliated sites.

Kate Harveston is a health and lifestyle journalist. Find more of her writing on her blog (So Well, So Woman), in College Parent Magazine by CollegiateParent, and on sites like YourTango, Greatist and Care2.

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