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What I Want for My Family (and Yours) This Winter Break

Sydnei Kaplan


Somehow, in spite of all the craziness that 2020 has thrown our way, we’ve nearly made it to the end of the year.

Usually around now, we college parents are savoring warm Thanksgiving memories and anticipating the longer stretch of winter break to come. But this is 2020 we’re talking about, and “usual” left the building months ago.

For starters, some kids never even moved to campus this fall because their classes were online. Those lucky enough to go back to campus and take some or all of their classes in person may have returned home at Thanksgiving for an extended winter break that will stretch through January.

What's the Same About this Winter Break?

While this winter break is likely to look and feel different from those in the past, there are some things we can rely on. Like always, our kids are looking forward to (and will surely get) much needed time for relaxation and de-stressing from the demands of school. My kids have been home since Thanksgiving but still had papers, projects and coursework to complete, along with taking final exams online, before settling into an actual vacation.

Like many other families, we're excited to have time together as a family, to reconnect and celebrate simple holiday traditions. Gatherings may be smaller, but we're still celebrating Chanukah with a feast of latkes (potato pancakes), lighting of candles and good conversation.

We love to go for drives and take in the holiday lights, being sure to stop at the “Christmas House” that is famous for a huge and intricate arrangement of lights and moving displays all set to music that's played over a local radio station!

As for New Year’s, our family plans to enjoy what we have done in recent years, just tweaking things a bit. The gathering at a friend’s house will be smaller this year, comprised of those of us who have been in each other’s lives the past months. Our kids each have friends who they continue to see and will celebrate with them, albeit in modified ways.

What's Different?

The majority of college students have a longer stretch at home this year between fall and spring semesters, but at the same time they're limited as to what they can do to fill those weeks. There is the possibility of boredom, frustration and getting on each other’s nerves.

Given what we as a nation have been through with COVID-19, finding part-time work is harder than it might have been in years past. And getting together with friends? Well, that’s a can of worms in itself. Some kids might be comfortable seeing friends and others may not be (an important topic for family conversations).

Those who decide to meet up with a few friends face a dilemma about where to go and what to do. In many parts of the country, restaurants, entertainment establishments, etc. are temporarily closed. Meeting in each other's homes (if families are okay with this) will require careful "pod" coordination among households, and by far the safest bet is for the kids to bundle up and gather outdoors. (Oh, you lucky people who live in a warm climate!)

Another change on the horizon — many schools adjusted their second semester calendars to omit spring break, that glorious March week that offered a breather after midterms. My son is already unhappy thinking about how stressful it will be to work straight through with little chance to come up for air.

College students (like students in other levels of school) have had to adjust to so much being cancelled. In-person classes were cancelled at many colleges this fall; social activities, sports, parties and even the simple act of gathering to eat together in dining halls were either non-existent or very restricted.

And to be honest, we don’t really know what our kids will experience next semester. Some universities have already announced that spring classes will begin remotely and that there will be no in-person commencement for the second year in a row.

The uncertainty weighs on our kids. My daughter is preparing to student teach during her final quarter at school. Yet like many of her peers studying education, she doesn’t know where her student teaching assignments will be, if she will be in a classroom or doing all of it virtually.

What I Want for My Family — And for Yours, Too

Writer Sydnei Kaplan and her family, winter break 2020There are bright spots in this pandemic winter break. For one thing, we've received the gift of time. It’s my hope that our family will use it to find ways to connect and enjoy each other. I pray that my kids will rally and focus on their many blessings (good health, loving family, cozy home, friends who love them) and use this feeling of gratitude to work through the challenges.

Of course, for many people right now there are more challenges than blessings. For those in this place, it is my hope that they find strength within themselves and inspiration from the blessings they do have. May support from loved ones or friends buoy their strength and encourage them through.

Yes, Winter Break 2020 looks different. Yet many of the fundamental things we associate with this season — as one year winds down and a New Year approaches — remain the same.

This is a time to reset and reassess. Time to settle in and take stock of all we’ve been through, and find gratitude for the blessings within the challenges. Time to recharge and cherish extra time with our loved ones. And time to prepare for the opportunities that 2021 has in store.

Sydnei Kaplan left a marketing career when her first child was born and never looked back. She and her husband are now parents to two college-aged children. Currently Sydnei works part-time in a preschool and rediscovered her passion for writing through Mom in the Moment, her recently launched blog. Sydnei is honored to contribute to several other sites, including Her View From Home and The Real Deal of Parenting. Find her on Facebook and Instagram, too.

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