4 Mindful Steps to a Stress-Free Family Holiday Season

A Letter from Carla Naumburg, PhD

We’re just a couple of short weeks away from the holiday vacation, which can be both a joyful and stressful time for families with young children. It can also be a wonderful time to start a family mindfulness practice. The practice of mindfulness, which is about noticing the present moment with kindness and curiosity so we can choose our next behavior, can help everyone more skillfully manage the big feelings and stress that may arise during two weeks at home together.

Here are few ideas from Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family:

Practice with your children. As with most things we want to teach our kids, it will go more smoothly if you’re doing it with them rather than telling them what to do. Whether you’re playing a game of Memory, trying out a new yoga video, or taking Three Magic Breaths to help everyone calm down, it will be more effective if you’re all doing it together.

Stop, Drop, and Breathe. Breathing is a fundamental mindfulness practice because  an easy and highly effective way to come back into the present moment. Whenever you or your children need a break from a difficult experience or challenging conversation, you can Stop, Drop whatever you’re doing, and just Breathe. Sometimes I even drop to the floor and roll around with my kids a bit, which can add some much needed levity to the moment.

Get C.A.L.M. We all carry our emotions in our bodies. Kids may have an especially hard time realizing that their tummy ache or tight muscles are trying to tell them something until they throw a toy or hit a sibling. The C.A.L.M practice is a brief body scan in which we take a moment to notice our Chest, Arms (and shoulders), Legs, and Mind. You can do this alongside your child and just ask them to notice what’s going on in each part of their bodies. This awareness is an important first step towards a more mindful response to big feelings.

Practice sending happy wishes. The stress of the holiday season can make us all grumpy. Sending thoughts of kindness—either to ourselves, our loved ones, people who are irritating us, or to the world in general—is a great way to let go of a bad mood and get into a happier holiday mood. You can repeat phrases such as, “May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you feel loved,” or you and your child can make up your own happy wishes.

Happy Holidays! I hope your time together is filled with love, kindness, and as few meltdowns as possible.

—Carla Naumburg

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