Dear Family Coach: Every year my daughter's middle school assigns homework and projects during the holiday break. And every year my kid leaves it until the last minute. The stress and procrastination ruin the vacation. Should we make her do the homework at the beginning even though there will be a good deal of fighting, or should we continue to deal with the effects of waiting until the end of break? — Sick of Homework
Dear Sick: This is frustrating indeed. Homework assignments during school breaks need to be illegal, off-limits, forbidden. Aside from the fact that the benefits of doing homework are unclear (especially in elementary and middle school), everyone deserves a vacation. It is cruel and unusual punishment to subject parents and children to assignments during what should be family downtime. So let's try to minimize the damage to your holiday.
Before the vacation, sit your daughter down to review what she has been assigned. Ask her how she would like to handle the homework. Discuss the typical pattern of a lot of nagging and stress. If she prefers to leave it until the end, let her. Don't nag or discuss the homework. Enjoy your vacation. Children need to learn to manage their time by middle school. If your daughter waits too long and does a poor job, she will receive a bad grade. That might motivate her to make better use of her time in the future.
If, by chance, your daughter desires to do her work in a different fashion, help her create a schedule to follow. Break up the assignments into smaller increments, and find time to complete the tasks. It also might be helpful to have her develop her own incentives for if she finishes the work on time. Whatever you do, don't allow her homework to ruin your vacation.
Dear Family Coach: I tend to pick up gifts for the family for months leading up to Christmas. If I see something on sale or something special, I just buy it and put it away. But this year it appears I overdid it and bought way too much. I have buyer's remorse for all the presents. What should I do now? My kids are used to getting a full load on Christmas morning. — Shopped Too Much
Dear Shopped: You have a problem that you must address, and it doesn't have to do with your kids. Sure, it's great to land a bargain, and shopping ahead of time might save a few dollars. But why do you think you buy and buy and buy? Obtaining 15 items at 50 percent off may still be significantly more expensive than buying five items at full price. Your shopping has gotten out of hand. Rather than focus on what to do about disappointing the children, I think you should assess how you reached this point.
Many people with chronic shopping habits are trying to fill a void or sooth a previous hurt. It isn't about how much you spend so much as the constant acquiring of items in an excessive manner. Addressing that issue will help you curb your habits in the future so you can avoid this problem.
In the meantime, I would take at least half of the items and donate them to charity. You don't have to tell the family about the donation. Just do it. Then place a reasonable number of toys and gifts under the tree. If you hear any complaining about the seemingly small number of gifts, you can tell your children that you decided to help other children who didn't have enough for Christmas. They would be hard-pressed to argue with that.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.