The Way I See It: The wonders of winter

Winter is on its way and with it comes some great opportunities for play, inside and out. As the ever hearty Canadians we have been very creative in finding ways to enjoy our winter weather or time inside. Hibernating doesn’t need to be the only option.

I had my own challenges with enjoying winter when I became an adult; as a kid I loved it. But as I aged I found I preferred the warmer months to the cold ones and actually lived in California and Key West to avoid the cold weather for a few years. However as a parent I wanted the boys to enjoy winter and so each year we tried new activities.

This could be a major sport like moving from cross country skiing and the Jack Rabbit program to buying the family pass at Silver Star so we could downhill ski.  Skiing  was an activity we could do together. Eventually we were just in the same vicinity as they out-skied me and we would meet for lunch and the ride home for the debriefing of the fun we had all had.

My youngest would have liked to play hockey as well but I made the decision that skiing would allow all of us to play. That was important to me. We did play shinny hockey at the outdoor rink at the Rec Centre on many Sunday afternoons, or on the Silver Star pond. As farm kids we always skated on the pond at our neighbour’s property and that is a very happy memory for me.  The pond ice is bumpy and there is always the need to pay attention to cracks and yet it has a certain magical feeling to it as you glide on the pond that you have just cleared.

It is really important for us to get exercise and sunshine in the winter. Both help with our health and our moods. Bundling up and staying warm can almost be an event in itself for some parents as they prepare their young ones to go outside and hopefully keep the hats and mitts on long enough to stay warm and get used to the new feeling of movement with extra layers. In our neighbourhood, many of the children and youth walk to school and this is so great as they get a chance to have some exercise before sitting in the classroom. Many get this at the playground prior to class if they are able to get to the school yard 15 to 30 minutes before the bell. Playing outside can be really helpful for the kids who may be challenged by sitting still.

Swimming at the Rec Centre is another great winter activity, as is indoor soccer, snowshoeing, tobogganing, exploring, building snow sculptures, it is all good. Walking in the winter around your neighbourhood can shine a new perspective on your area as homes are more visible, or if at night the moonlight and snow give a new look to buildings and trees. The house Christmas lights are coming on now and looking lovely!

Indoor activities like games, projects where you build something from Lego, or a canoe. I think any activity that brings us together has positive outcomes. It aids in our sense of belonging, security, our place to share what is going on, ask questions, have fun together.

I read a study recently about a substance use program in Massachusetts and one of the ways substance use in teens was reduced was by family meals together.  This may be breakfast or dinner.  Lunch dates with your students are a great way to connect, not at the school of course. I tried suggesting this to my oldest when he started high school and he looked absolutely mortified that I would join him in the cafeteria. Our lunch dates which we had regularly involved leaving the campus.

I think any activity that brings us together has positive outcomes. It aids in our sense of belonging, security, our place to share what is going on, ask questions, have fun together.  Connecting with your teen starts in the early years and they are going to go through periods of close connection and not so close.  The parents need to be stoic through this time and be that safe place in what can be a storm.  Find your ways to connect – movie nights, driving, meals, walking together, late night chats, texting, watching their activities, what ever it takes to show I care, I’m interested, you are important.

One of my favourite gifts that I saw a parent give a youth was from Keith Pattison, the BC Director of Boys and Girls Club who has written a book about asset building with youth. He wrote his son a letter for Christmas and what the gift inside was the time and activities they would do together. It included fun activities that were important to the son, like attending sporting events; playing one-on-one basketball as well; hiking or camping as a family to get uninterrupted time together and to appreciate nature. There was also time together volunteering in the community to give to others and to strengthen their connection to the place they lived, as well as cultural events. Each activity brought them together and had additional value.

A letter offering shared experiences that includes important activities for both the receiver and the giver can be a great answer for a meaningful gift. Coupons of activities you will do is also a wonderful present for any age. The options are endless.

I recently celebrated a birthday and since then have been creating a list of 58 activities to try in the coming year with everything from a special hike, to reading certain books, taking a course, volunteering.  Our life is an evolution and in this amazing world, great country and community that we live in we have many choices for ways to develop our whole being.  They don’t need to cost money to enjoy and they will take effort some greater than others and all have rewards.>

I hope the coming winter is safe, has plenty of snow on the mountain, and provides many laughs and a ha moments.

I hope the coming winter is safe, has plenty of snow on the mountain, and provides many laughs and aha moments.

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star, writing on a variety of topics, and appearing every other Sunday. She has worked with families and children in the North Okanagan for the past 28 years.