We invite you to enjoy Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services, director, Dr. Michael Oberschneider’s piece, which was published on the Ashburn Patch and Leesburg Patch on 03/17/2014 .

Snow Day:  Seven Survival Tips for Parents

It’s easy to understand why so many are struck with a case of the winter blues each year. We leave for work before the sun comes up and head home in the dark barely glimpsing daylight.

As the days get shorter and colder, many folks find themselves dealing with sadness, decreased motivation and energy, increased appetite and excessive sleeping, etc. But wait, this is March 17, and this shouldn’t be happening, right?

Well, while the calendar is reminding us that we are just days away from Spring, the weather in Northern Virginia seems to have us all stuck in an endless loop of snow days. And the snow, I believe, has taken a toll on a number of people.

A few of my clients have joked about the snow day situation this year. With school closings week after week, one client recently told me that she was reminded of the movie, “Groundhog Day,” in which the main character frustratingly experiences the same day over and over and over again. Another client joked about Posttraumatic Snow Disorder as the new PTSD.

But many I’ve spoken to aren’t laughing about this year’s accumulation (pardon the pun) of snow days or the negative impact they have had to endure. In fact, for many of my clients and working adults, the plethora of snow days this year have caused frustration, stress, anxiety, situational depression and financial concerns.

Scrambling to find last minute childcare when your child’s daycare or school closes, taking off work or managing a work schedule from home (often with kids at home), keeping your child or children entertained, keeping your child’s academics on track and driving on icy or snowy roads are but a few realties that many of us have had to deal with this winter.

So, what’s the solution? While you cannot control the weather, you can control how you manage yourself and your family today. I’ve included a few ideas below from a past article of mine.

Get out of your own head and see the positive of the moment. Yes, as a parent you may be overwhelmed, and you may also now need to balance more with your children being unexpectedly home for more days. But try to remember what a snow day felt like when you were a child. I grew up in a small town outside of Chicago, and some of my fondest childhood memories involved snow days and all the things I did for fun with my siblings and parents.

Create some snow day traditions. Making a snow man, snow angels, building a snow fort, making snow ice cream (there are plenty of recipes on-line), sledding, a snowball fight, etc. Simply bundle up your kids, open the door and let them play until their hearts are content. Maybe go ice-skating as a family. There is the Ashburn Ice House for indoor skating and the Reston Town Center for outdoor skating to consider nearby. After time in the snow, perhaps s’mores, hot chocolate or baking something delicious might be a fun family activity. Board games or maybe movies in PJ’s are nice ways to get cozy and keep it fun.

Take advantage of the time you now have with your children to get things done. Snow days are an excellent time to get those doctor and dentist appointments for your children checked off your to-do list. There might be some family chores or tasks that everyone could do together. You might also pack the kids in the car to run the many errands you need to get done but haven’t had
the time for. Perhaps you could compromise with lunch or some frozen yogurt out to make the time doing errands more agreeable to your kids.

Extend your children’s video game and social media time. As we all know, most children and teens enjoy video games and social media. So, relax your rules and restrictions a little to let your children have extended fun with their screens. The more social and interactive you can make your children’s screen time the better. Show some interest in your children’s games, and maybe even grab a controller and jump in as a parent. You could also use this time and opportunity
to introduce your children to educational apps and games (e.g., Leapfrog Leapster Explorer Learning Games, Little Big Planet 2, My Word Coach and Big Brain Academy).

Encourage down time. Snow days can be over stimulating for all involved – including parents! And too much excitement without enough structure can lead to fights, behavioral problems and punishments. Reading, draw, arts and crafts are a few quiet activities to consider in between the more active fun moments.

Set-up play dates. Encourage your older children to spend time with their friends both outside and inside, and use your parent network to set-up play dates for your younger children. If you work from home (or just for your own piece of mind), there may be blocks of time where you will want the noise level lowered and the kids out of the house. Planning ahead with other parents for this can be a great help.

Get some schoolwork done. Your children will likely be back to school tomorrow or soon after, so staying on top of homework, projects or assignments or review is a good thing to do.

Most importantly, remember to keep things in perspective and to enjoy this extra time with your children. Most of us work very long hours in Northern Virginia, and we don’t get to spend as much time with our children as we’d like. And also remember, March 20, is the first day of Spring!