How to avoid meltdowns and make the season joyful rather than stressful.
The holiday season officially starts right before Halloween. Three weeks later, we must be ready for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukah a month later. The holidays are the most magical and physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding for children (even though they can be challenging for adults, make no mistake!) Children will be filled with anticipation and planning and, at times, may perform in shows or family gatherings.
Kids do well with structure and routines, and the holidays with all their magic and special events, yet with few regular days in between, could end up chaotic and unpredictable, triggering complex moods, temper tantrums, slammed doors, and overwhelm in kids of all ages.
Adults alike are on high alert during the holidays. They are planning, entertaining, cooking, spending money, and meeting with distant family members while trying to keep up with everyone’s routine. It is a highly demanding time of year with a lack of structure that can create toxic stress at home or in any environment that is usually full of love and peace.
Everyone wants to enjoy the holidays and make them fun and joyous. So, what can we do to reduce stress and overwhelm kids and families?
Here are some tips:
•No matter what age talk to your kids about the anticipated holiday schedules. Prepare everyone and tell them it is okay to feel anxious or stressed.
•Make the effort to plan events and commitments while sticking to your routine as much as possible.
•Avoid overscheduling events. Be selective in what you and your kids are going to attend. Sometimes less is more. Include your kids in the planning so they know what to expect.
•Remind them to stop for a few minutes at any time during the day and take five deep breaths. Younger kids may need an adult to breathe with them.
•Elementary school kids and older can do the Hand breath independently. Here are the instructions:
-Raise one hand in front of your eyes and
spread the fingers like a star.
-Using the index finger of your other hand,
trace the outline of your star hand as you coordinate
with the breath so that you are breathing in when your finger traces upward and breathing out when it races downward. You can tell your child that the fingers are like mountains, and you’re going up and down.
You can guide the breath by telling them: to take a deep breath as you move to the top of your thumb. Breathe out as you move down between your thumb and first finger. Take another breath as you move to the top of your first finger. Breathe out as you move down between your first and second finger.
•Combine outings with some physical activity, such as bike rides, swimming, doing a picnic, and playing some sports.
•Remind them what the holidays are all about: being kind to each other, giving love, being patient, and enjoying the moments together with family.
•Include quiet moments for everyone. Create a peaceful corner at home where your kids can retreat from the hustle and bustle for a moment of rest or regulate down with mindful activities such as coloring, listening to music, playing an instrument, or reading a book.
•Keep screen time to a limit. Even though it might seem tempting to let kids relax watching tv, playing video games, or scrolling through social media, this will actually contribute to overstimulating their young brains, and the emotional meltdown may be just around the corner.
•To that extent, be an example for your kids! They will want the same if they see you on your phone often. If they see you putting the phone away to connect with them, they will be so much more likely to enjoy that moment with you.
•Implement a simple mantra: Peace Begins With Me! The index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers touch the thumb with every word spoken. The fine motor movement and the content of the mantra will help the brain regulate down, and the child will feel calmer and more at ease.
Ultimately, all it takes is to become aware of the challenges of facing intense schedules and the pressures of overcommitting to events. Explain to everyone this is an excellent opportunity to practice mindful tools to manage all the excitement the holidays bring!
Happy, calm, and relaxed holidays from all of us at Mindful Monkeys!
Monika Gressier and Katrin Stoerr de Queiroz
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