How to Treat ‘Cabin Fever’ During Winter Storm Jonas

happy mother with sweet little daughters reading bookThe child development specialists at Celebree Learning Centers provide some helpful hints on avoiding “cabin fever” during the upcoming snowstorm.

Schools are closed. Grocery store shelves are empty. It’s a State of Emergency in Maryland, and soon that may make for a different type of emergency for homes across the area as “cabin fever” begins to set in.

The common non-medical condition is often caused by being buried indoors due to snow for extended periods of time, and can be particularly troublesome for parents with small children. While not considered life-threatening, 100% of moms and dads have reported experiencing serious side effects such as temper tantrums, restlessness and completely running out of ideas of what to do.

As the endless snow activities and adventures whirl through children’s mind faster than they can run to grab their snowshoes, parents often struggle with the balance of keeping children entertained, safe and warm. Below are a number of helpful things to consider in treating and preventing cabin fever.

Understand Tantrums
Three of the primary causes of tantrums for small children are fatigue, hunger and an inability to communicate. Fatigue and hunger occur more regularly during normal play when in the snow due to the additional calories being burned as a result of the extra effort it takes to move normally. Children are wearing heavier and more restricting layers than they are accustomed to having to push through. And, any amount of snow for a person one-third the size of a full adult means any amount of snow is three times as much of an impact. That formula typically equals a quickly wiped out tot.

It’s important to manage time spent playing with time spent resting. That doesn’t necessarily mean strictly limiting the time spent outdoors to small intervals (dressing and undressing constantly isn’t the best way to prevent tantrums either), but be sure to balance time spent walking, running, climbing and sledding with time just sitting, drinking, and observing. An equal balance of high effort activity and resting while outside will help preserve a level headed child.

However, most tantrums can be expected to occur indoors when restlessness sets in. Children have a much more limited vocabulary available to them orally than mentally. They often have very robust ideas in their minds about things to do and say, with a limited amount of words to convey them. This can cause major frustration, especially when stuck inside with parents not offering much in the way of entertainment. In an effort to be better understood, they often resort to crying, throwing things, biting and other expressive behaviors as a resort.

Keep active in holding conversations with your children, and try to help them talk through their restlessness.

Limit Screen Time
Television, iPads and computers are easy ways to entertain. However, they are frequent culprits in overstimulation and restlessness. It’s OK to allow screen time, but it’s important to make sure that it is balanced with other activities. Keep track of the amount of time spent watching TV or playing games in some type of interval, and match the duration of each show or movie with an equal duration doing something else.
Need ideas? Try making a fun game out of cooking or cleaning. Set up a hot chocolate bar, and enjoy a warm cup together while reminiscing about the all of the fun you had outside. Try drawing the day’s activities on paper and write a story about it with your children that can be read again alter. Click here to learn about other fun and unique activities. Use your imagination just as your children use theirs.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Go outside! Sometimes it’s easy for a busy parent to forget how much satisfaction comes with playing in the snow. Hop on the sled with your child and go for a ride. Don’t have a sizeable hill in your yard or nearby? Igloos and snowmen have been entertaining families for generations, and the internet provides awesome how-to guides on using household items to take your building skills to the next level. Before you venture out, sit down with the kids and write a “how-to” guide where the kids explain in their own words how to make an igloo. Take those instructions outside and follow them together. As you’re collectively building the structure, remember to encourage that feeling of accomplishment with your children.

Safety First
Some tantrums are entirely warranted, especially those caused by an injury or accident. While we love talking about all of the fun that comes from a snow day, it’s also just as important to discuss the safety concerns. Stay off the roads whenever possible. Aside from accidents, getting stranded is no fun, and especially boring for kids.

Always bring an extra blanket outside or beach towel outside. They can be used to sit on to avoid extended contact with the snow when resting, and also as both something to wrap up accompanying toys… or the kids themselves.

When sledding, bring string or bungie cords. These items can be very helpful in tying things together or pulling the sled in instances where there are no longer as many helping hands due to someone growing tired or sustaining an injury.

As another safety precaution, double the distance you would normally have children play from the roads. What may otherwise be a safe area in the summer, may not be in the winter when icy, slick roads come into play.