Instead of being festive and fun, the holidays are often anything but what we want them to be. We envision cozy nights by the fire, watching movies in pajamas, and having all members of our family get along. Instead we find ourselves tackling endless to-do lists, shopping, cooking, hosting guests, buying and wrapping gifts, and trying to keep up with the expectations of family and friends. Even though we know there is no such thing as a perfect holiday, we try to do it all and be everything to everyone, and we end up feeling frazzled.
Children also experience stress and anxiety at the holidays. Many kids find the disruption of their normal routines, at home and at school, to be overwhelming. At home, meal and bedtimes may be off. At school there are holiday concerts, plays, parties, and an increased sense of rising energy. Everywhere kids turn there are lights, sounds, smells, crowds, lines, and unfamiliar faces. It’s overwhelming for any child. Even from a very young age, children sense the frantic pace of the season and the stress it causes the adults in their lives.
Because they have a limited set of emotional regulation tools, the holidays can be even harder for kids with ADHD or ASD. This overwhelm can’t be processed and causes sensory overload. Unlike adults, kids don’t have the words to say, “This is getting to be too much for me and I need to take a calming break.” Instead, their brain sends them a message to escape the chaos in their environment.
This can present in many ways including:
∙tantrums and meltdowns
∙upset stomachs or headaches
∙withdrawing from family and friends
∙nail biting or hair twirling
All this stress and overwhelm leads to feeling exhausted, mentally and physically, and can also lead to reduced immunity and becoming ill.
It’s good to know that mediation and mindfulness practices can help. And despite what you might think, they are easy to implement into daily life, allowing adults and kids the quiet time and mental space to re-center, rejuvenate and yes, even relax during the holidays. Recent studies have shown the myriad benefits of meditation, which makes it the perfect way to prevent, and reduce holiday stress.
∙reduced reactivity to sensory stimuli
Meditation is often misunderstood, and many think if they don’t have thirty minutes to spend in absolute silence, then they can’t meditate. But it is so easy to bring meditation into your life, and your child’s life.
1. Step Outside. Get away from the lights, noise, crowds, and sounds by stepping into nature and doing a walking meditation. Focus on your steps and feel that grounding connection to earth with each step. Use all your senses to notice the world around you. Breathe in the air. If you’re able to, walk through a forest, or the woods, and feel the calming energy of the trees.
2. Breathe. Simply inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three, several times throughout the day is very calming. Taking slow, gentle breaths regulates the central nervous system by getting more oxygen into the brain. This calms fight or flight mode. It helps you stay calm, and also brings relaxation when you are feeling stressed.
As in #1 above, being outside is a great way to escape sensory stimuli. It’s also a great place to practice breathwork with kids. All you need is a bubble wand and solution. Depending on the temperature, the bubbles may freeze, developing frost patterns before they break. Kids love blowing bubbles and this is a great way to make relaxation breathing fun.
3. Be here, right now. This is a practice that grounds you in the moment. When you, or your little one are feeling overwhelmed, stop and notice one thing you can see, smell, hear, touch, and maybe even taste.
4. Warm Cup. Another soothing way to ground in the moment is called Warm Cup. You need a mug or warm tea, cider, soup, or hot chocolate. Sit with your child and their warm cup, and ask them to notice what their cup feels like, how does the shape of the mug or cup feel in their hands, how does the warm drink or soup smell? After taking a sip, have them notice how the liquid feels moving in their mouth, down their throat, and sliding down into their tummy? How do they feel holding the cup, tasting it, and feeling it warm their body?
5. Create Space. Regardless of how busy you are, carve out a few minutes of quiet meditation time each day for yourself, and for your child. This looks different for everyone, but some ideas might include listening to guided story meditations at bedtime, mindfully coloring while listening to relaxing music, dimming the lights and doing a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation, or putting a few drops of vanilla or peppermint on a teddy bear or blanket and then inhaling the soothing scent by taking slow, deep breaths.
We hope these suggestions help you, and your little one, enjoy the holidays the way they should be…a season of comfort and joy. Remember, any moments of quiet time and space you create in your day, and your child’s, will help you both enjoy the magic of the season. If your little one likes listening to stories, (and what little one doesn’t) consider getting them a Wee Meditate subscription this holiday season. Kids learn how to meditate in a fairy-tale forest with a magical Dragon and his forest animal friends.
Wee Meditate is the perfect antidote for holiday stress, and a great storytime activity the whole family will enjoy. There are no batteries, no assembly is required, and because it’s a digital platform, there is zero waste. This season, give the gift of meditation that benefits a child for a lifetime. Sign up today!