7 Ways to Parent Well When Winter Shuts You In

Has the winter weather got you down? For parents with little ones, winter days can feel like an eternity.

Cold temperatures, snow days, weather hazards, the dreaded cold and flu season, and the onset of cabin fever can lead to a frustrating loop of, “I’m bored” and “What are we going to do NOW?”

Before you curse the cold and throw your hands in the air in a helpless act of surrender, let me assure you there is hope! It IS possible to keep your kids healthy and happy this winter season without losing all your marbles.

Here are seven ways to keep winter blues at bay:

1. Turn Off Technology

“WHAT?” you’re probably thinking, “The TV and tablets are the only things keeping me sane!”

It seems counterintuitive–right? Technology is an easy go-to for winter storm relief, but a little Minecraft goes a long way. A steady stream of screen time can do more harm than good.

One study found that adolescents who had more screen time were at an increased risk to show these symptoms:

  • Increased impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity-impulsivity, such as having trouble controlling their body

While technology may keep your children occupied for a moment or two, the long-term effects are brutal. In the same way eating one cookie isn’t going to cause a health problem, a diet of cookies won’t bode well for your waistline or heart health.

While you may be tempted to relax on your technology limits when the cold keeps you in, hold fast, my friend. Keep your technology limits in place and turn to alternatives that engage kids’ minds and bodies. The long-term payoff will be worth it!

2. Think Outside the Living Room

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Head to your local YMCA, jump for an hour at the indoor trampoline arena, visit the art and science museum, or hit up a gym with a kid zone.

Even if bad weather has you stranded at home, you can still go outside your living room. Is there a tubing hill nearby that’s covered in snow? 

Sure, it may be daunting to bundle everyone up and get them out the door, but the effort will pay off. The short-term frustration of managing the hats, gloves, and jackets will diminish as your kids burn energy on a giant outdoor playground or at another fun activity.

3. Get Creative With Your Kids

Once a week, sit down with your kids and brainstorm 10 family fun time ideas for the week. Then, see how many you can check off! Here are a few ideas:

  • Build a blanket fort
  • Go indoor “camping”–tent and all
  • Bake cakes in cups
  • Try new recipes
  • Play with clay
  • Break out rolls of craft paper with crayons and markers
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Set up an indoor obstacle course
  • Play hide and seek
  • Invest in science experiments
  • Read books together
  • Write stories together
  • Explore new music or instruments
  • Have a dance party
  • Have an indoor picnic
  • Play games
  • Create new games
  • Go “swimming” in the tub
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Organize playdates

There are hundreds of ways to keep kids engaged and entertained, and (fortunately for us) an entire internet filled with ideas.

4. Let the Light In

Some of what invites a downward turn in emotion is simply the lack of light in the wintertime. The leafless trees, the gray skies, the brown grass, the short days–when combined, winter can feel drab and dreary.

Without that big dose of Vitamin D from the sun every day, it’s easier to feel blue. To combat those feelings, open the curtains, turn on the lights, and make things as bright as you can in your living and play spaces. Even if it’s not a bright, sunny 80-degree day, invite the light in–artificial or natural–and you’ll notice a difference in your children’s moods and behaviors.  

5. Remember Routines 

With cold weather zapping everyone’s energy and snow days throwing a monkey wrench into outdoor plans, it’s easy to get lazy with regular routines. Combat schedule sluggishness by sticking to your set routines each day–even when bad weather cancels school or quells activities.

When the expectation exists that household jobs and homework continue to be done daily, they’ll be no need for questioning or quarreling later. When parents are consistent with routines and structure, kids feel more secure–giving them fewer reasons to act out.

6. Look for Silver Linings  

I get it. Your plans have changed, too. Maybe you were looking forward to a coffee date with a friend or had dreams of grocery shopping by yourself. But the storm came in, and the kids are home from school.

While it’s easy to focus on the activities you’ll miss out on, let me encourage you to turn your gaze to the silver linings of the situation. Your attitude and response to situations like this have an extreme impact on your children’s responses–they are feeding off your cues.

Make it a practice to help your kids be mindful and in the present–even when things don’t go their way. Steer the narrative away from the bad weather to the fun activities of the day, the blessing of time together, and the opportunity to get creative. Helping kids shift their mindsets now will not only get YOU through the gray days of winter, but will help them see the silver linings in the major and minor upsets of life.

One way I encourage parents to do this is by shifting their language from saying “I have to” to “I get to.” Instead of “I have to stay home with the kids on this snow day,” you can say “I get to hang out with my kids today!”

This slight change in language gives children a greater sense of belonging because they aren’t seen as a burden, but as a gift. And we know that when a child’s need for belonging is met, they are less likely to act out.

7. Get Outside–Really!

While you consider all the ways you can promote healthy and happy children while avoiding bad weather, I will ask you to consider another idea. All over the world, Forest Schools are popping up that adhere to the saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”

This idea is simple–when kids are properly dressed, they can safely and joyfully explore the world outside. These schools hold classes outside all year round and simply ask that kids come dressed appropriately for the weather.

While I know every parent should win a Nobel Peace Prize for getting a 2-year-old dressed to go out in the snow, I’d encourage you, whenever possible, to still spend some time outside. Even when it’s cold or rainy, kids still find enjoyment splashing in puddles and making snow angels. Dig deep to find your silver lining, my friend, and let them explore outside when you can!

Final Thoughts

Whatever the season, there are always ways to promote healthy, happy, positive practices that make the weather matter less and the time together matter more. It’s often in those creative, out-of-the-norm moments when some of the best memories are made. Enjoy them.

If you feel like you’ve tried similar strategies to tackle your winter blues, and you’re still feeling at the end of your rope, I’d love for you to join me for a FREE parenting class.

In one hour, I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen without nagging, reminding or yelling. Winter blues or not, your kids deserve a calm and confident parent–and I’d love to help you get there.

Stay warm and safe, and as always – happy parenting!

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.