December 30, 2019

Helping Children Enjoy The Beautiful-But Often Hectic Holiday Season

Dancing Moose Montessori School
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Helping Children Enjoy the Beautiful—But Often Hectic—Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, it is ­­­full of lots of fun activities, bright lights, and glee; but for some children, all of these changes can also produce emotional overload.

To help make the crazy holiday preparation a little easier for kids and parents, it’s a good idea to have some ideas in mind that can help children navigate their way to success.  Today I’d like to introduce a three-pronged process.

1. Anticipate and try to prevent anxious feelings.

Children thrive on routine.  They want to be able to predict their environment, and predictability is not always easy with the crazy demands of holiday activities and bright symbols of the season all around them.

–It is important to maintain as much of your routine as possible.  Bed and wake time, meal time, family intimate time like bedtime stories should remain as stable as possible.  Making sure that children get adequate sleep can help their minds and bodies maintain a healthy rhythm.

–Make sure your children get regular, nutritious meals.  They are an important to help regulate children’s bodily functions, and they can help prevent overindulgence in the sugar-rich foods that are promoted during the holidays.

–Help your child understand exactly what to expect before you go to a busy place like a mall.  Explain what the crowd will look and sound like. Be sensitive not to make shopping events too long.

–Schedule some family down time at home.  Some quiet time activities such as reading a good book together or listening to soothing music with the family helps to instill more calm.

2.  Teach children to recognize difficult feelings by looking inward as part of a mindful process.

Mindfulness activities are intended to help your child know how to focus their attention on the present moment.  An important goal of mindfulness is to help your child regulate their emotional reactions to events. For example, if your child is angry, you might ask, “How does your body feel when you’re angry?”

This simple question helps your child focus inward to realize that anger doesn’t feel good.  When I asked this to question to a 5-year-old at Dancing Moose, she said, “I just want to knock over all the chairs.”  This response was a perfect opportunity for me to validate her feeling and teach her that we might be able to do something else to help her with this angry feeling.

3.  Introduce basic mindfulness breathing activities.

~ Noticing the Breath: Encourage your child to really notice their breath by putting their fingers under their noses to feel the warmth and moisture of the out-breath. Have them put their hands on their tummies to feel the rise and fall of their bellies as they breathe. Let them know that when they are angry, it can be calming to focus on what our breathing actually feels like.

~ Counting the Breath: You can start with the basics — count the in-breath and out-breath. One breath in and out is “1”, then “2”, and so on, up to ten.

~ Five-Finger Starfish Meditation: Make a starfish with one hand {fingers spread out wide}. Using their pointer finger from their other hand, gently trace the outline of the starfish hand, slowly going up and down each finger while breathing in and out. The focused concentration on the hand, combined with the soothing touch, often has an immediate calming effect.

Mindfulness practice is part of a large body of research that can help children recognize that they have the ability to improve the way they feel by mindfully focusing inward and tuning into the calming effect of the breath.  It would be fun to explore some additional mindful activities at another time.

The holidays are certainly a joyful time, and planning ahead to mitigate the hectic nature of some holiday activities can help children avoid and manage stress that comes from emotional overload.

 

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Dancing Moose Montessori School

December 30, 2019

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