The holidays can be very evocative for some of us. It can bring up cozy warm feelings as we reminisce about family gatherings and happy memories and also bring up anxious feelings or worry about finances, upcoming events and an overall busier season. Whatever it brings up in you, it’s all ok. It’s also ok for the holiday season to bring up all kinds of feeling in our children. So as we embark on another hustling bustling season of events, let’s take a deeper look at how we can manage it with grace and self-love.
Connect to the True Meaning. Being mindful about the “why” behind the season can help us get back to the roots of what these holiday traditions are all about. It can help us deepen our spiritual connection to the season, become closer as a family, and reduce some of the noise and distraction of the consumerism that we are faced with in many of our cultures. Take some time to be curious and ponder some questions. What would you like the holidays to be about for your family? If the answer is gratitude, how can you make that a daily practice? How can it be modeled? If it’s kindness and compassion, what would that look like? Tuning in with ourselves and refining our focus can go a long way in helping us to teach our children the life lessons we hope will make them loving and caring adults.
Consider focusing on a few centering family traditions– There are plenty of events going on between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/ Solstice. Try to scale back to a few foundational traditions that you would like to focus on for your family. These will help everyone feel more grounded and bring your family closer together. They can be very specific to your tradition or more general. For example, in our home we visit a local Farm Sanctuary around Thanksgiving for their annual celebration of the turkeys. We also have a book tradition around Christmas where we unwrap a different Winter/Christmas themed book from our collection every day for the first 12 days of December. We enjoy lots of cozy reading time with these books all month long. We also love music in our home, so we incorporate impromptu holiday dance party and jam sessions all season long. Find the peace in knowing you are creating lasting joy filled memories that your child will treasure as they get older.
Be Gentle with Expectations– Keep in mind that the holiday hype, while intending to be fun and jolly, can be very overwhelming for many of our kiddos. Before an event, help them prepare by using a calendar, having lots of conversation of what an event may look like and if appropriate, view YouTube videos of an event so they can see or understand what to expect, listen and validate any feelings they have about the upcoming experience, and allow for extra time in your schedule so nobody feels rushed. During the event, check in with your child to see how they are managing and allow for flexibility if they need some space or time away to regulate their body. Bring along a favorite comfort item or fun activity, set aside a quiet space away from the action, and connect with them often either physically or emotionally. After the event, make sure to take extra time with your child to listen to their experience, answer any questions they may have and reflect on how it felt for you both. Holding space before and after gatherings and events to process and decompress in a relaxed way will help everyone feel less stressed and more connected.
Don’t forget Self-Care It’s so easy to put our needs aside when we are busy. With all the planning and preparing, how do we take care of ourselves too? Start small. Just five minutes can make a huge difference and create space to reset. Choose something you can do regularly and just get started. Drink more water, go to bed earlier, read for enjoyment, do standing stretches between tasks, close your eyes and focus on your breath, feel the sun on your face, look up at the sky, breathe deeply. If you have more time, one of the most healing things you can do is connect with nature every day. Bring the kiddos along too! Playing and being in the fresh air and sun can do wonders, especially during the darker winter days. It’s soothing and grounding for the whole family!
Release Judgment. This is truly a lifelong practice for everyone in the family. Whether we are coming down hard on ourselves as parents for not doing enough, giving enough or providing enough, or judging other for the way they react to this time of year- we all could use a little more grace. Keep in mind that each of us are doing the best we can in any given situation. Love on yourself a little more. Be patient. Scale back. Spend less. We don’t need to participate in every holiday event. We don’t need to have Instagram worthy tables, gift wrapping and families. We are beautifully imperfect and infinitely special just as we are. So are our children. Allow the mess, embrace home made decorations that focus on the process instead of the product, involve your kids in menu planning and simple cooking tasks. Invite them to prepare the house for the holidays to develop a greater sense of responsibility and care for their environment. Most of all, remember to keep age-appropriate expectations for them. A 5 year old cannot sit for as long as a 10 year old- and a 3 year old may not tolerate sitting at all. Sometimes children have very different ideas about something you meticulously planned. Listen to them and see where you can adjust and adapt things for them to feel accepted and seen. Just meet them where they are. Wherever they are is OK. Wherever you are is OK too.
Blessings to you and yours for a joy and love filled holiday season.
Peace to all, life to all, love to all. Sat Nam.