Bring the “Joy” Back to Your Holidays

Happy black american family celebrating christmas on their sweet home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

Finally, snow is beginning to arrive, ready to wrap the midwest in a blanket of white. Hot chocolate is flying off the shelves as our kitchens fill with the scent of fresh-baked sugar cookies for decorating. It’s officially the season of celebrating. Some of us are going home for the holidays while others are preparing the home for its annual visitors. Regardless of how your family commemorates this season, it can be easy for conversations to slowly fade as your loved ones turn to their devices for comfort. 

This is a challenge most people sharing their time with the digital world face daily, but it can be a significant struggle for the younger generation. With the time off from school, it’s easy to rely on online communications to keep them connected with their friends and ensure they feel included. However, the constant connection acts as a digital distraction from the real world. What masks itself as a harmless interruption can slowly develop into long-term mental health issues, increasing the risk for low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. 

The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to help your students take a step back, unplug and be present. Our students don’t realize it yet, but the older they get, the less time they have with their families. A worldwide pandemic stole Christmas last season, now it’s your time to take it back. Help your family prioritize their real-life relationships this holiday. To help, Smart Gen Society has composed a few of our favorite ways to make memories this time of year…

  • Let your outdoor adventure begin and try skiing. Mt. Crescent in Honey Creek, Iowa, offers the impossible… a picture-perfect snowy landscape even in the warmest of winters. Mt Crescent provides Midwest skiers with a variety of slopes to intrigue new skiers and challenge experienced ones. Enjoy substantial winter meals paired with your favorite warm beverage, or unwind by the outside bonfire and roast marshmallows till your next run! Don’t want to travel to Colorado to find out if skiing is your calling? Here’s an opportunity closer to you. 
  • We have another frosty opportunity made for the athletes in your family, try ice skating at one of Omaha’s many locations! Some of us may be pros on the ice while others are just beginning. Regardless of your skill experience, there are indoor and outdoor rinks in the Metro area. For the days when Nebraska is colder than Antarctica, skate at one of the following indoor facilities: Grover IceMotto McLean Ice Arena or Moylan Iceplex. Want the full experience? Skate outside at UNMC Ice Rink or Mahoney State Park
  • One of our favorite things about this time of year is the lights. Whether Christmas is your holiday choice or not, The Old Market in downtown Omaha transforms this time of year to spread holiday cheer. Lights will illuminate from 10th to 13th streets, and from Harney to Jackson Streets. The display will also be accented with LED snowflakes from the Omaha Downtown Improvement District, greenery, and bows. Discover a special wonderful holiday display lighting up the famous 11th & Howard intersection from all 4 corners.
  • Traditionally, TV screens on New Year’s Eve are reserved for the Times Square Ball Drop. After seeing the same thing, year after year, it may be time for a change. The last signature event of this year’s Holiday Lights Festival is a spectacular firework show choreographed to open on cue to a musical score developed specifically for this event. Your family can enjoy the show from the warmth and safety of your vehicle or home. The fireworks will be launched from Parking Lot D of the CHI Health Event Center. 

Even though we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather, we understand that the cold front coming in isn’t for everyone. For those of us who are going into hibernation for the next few months, Smart Gen Society has compiled several options of indoor activities that will prevent you and your family from bundling up in the cold…

  • Challenge your family to beat you in a game at Spielbound Board Game Cafe. Select a unique spin on your favorite warm drinks as you snuggle up in a booth with over 2,400 different board games to choose from. It’s a family-friendly cafe serving crowds of all ages. Spielbound may carry your traditional games but fans of the cafe recommend trying something new. The best stories always come from the first time your family experiences something together. 
  • Looking for an activity that doesn’t require you to leave your house? Start your own family book club! Take turns picking a book you and your family can read together. It’s the perfect time to curl up by the fireplace each night and dedicate time to reading together or discussing what you’re reading on your own. If your shelves aren’t full of books it may be time to take a trip to a bookstore. The BookwormDundee Book CompanyThe Next Chapter and Jackson Street Booksellers are great ways to support local businesses as the year comes to a close.
  • Go on a hot chocolate tour! Whether you take marshmallows with this holiday drink or not, there is a hot chocolate calling your name at every local coffee shop in Omaha. It is difficult to pick our favorite spots with so many wonderful options in the area but some of our top choices include Stories Coffee CompanyZen CoffeeStir Coffee Bar and of course, Scooters Coffee. All these places offer a variety of tasty drinks in addition to hot chocolate for all the coffee lovers out there. 
  • It’s the most wonderful time of year to visit a museum. Learning doesn’t have to stop just because our students are on our winter vacation. Luckily, Omaha has an assortment of museums, each covering different interests your family might have. A former train station, The Durham Museum offers a fascinating look at the history of our region. For the younger ones, the Omaha Children’s Museum features exciting science, technology, engineering, art, and math experiences. Another option, Josyln Art Museum is closing for two years in May of 2022. The winter holiday is a great time to embrace it before the expansions begin. 

Setting the device down and living in the moment can provoke feelings of FOMO or the fear of missing out in our young students. Be prepared for the arguments and grief you’ll receive from asking them to unplug. Trust us, it won’t be easy, but it will be more than worth it. Once the initial shock passes the disconnection your students feel from their phone will turn into a connection with the people around them. Even the simple act of unplugging for an afternoon can give your students a moment to catch their breath.

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