Using Mindfulness to Get the Most Out of Family Holidays

Using Mindfulness to Get the Most Out of Family Holidays

Travel, no matter how near or far, has so many benefits for children.  Families often leave the comfort of home to explore new and different people, cultures, environments, and experiences.

Not only do family trips create opportunities for families to bond through shared experiences, but they also provide situations that require children to take risks, try something new, and act brave, which can result in courage and greater confidence. But travel isn’t always so easy with kids and can sometimes be a tumultuous experience. Incorporating mindfulness into your travel and adventures is a great way to enhance your family’s experience and teach your children how to appreciate not only the destination, but also the journey.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for your trip …

Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

Family travel should be fun from the start, but can easily get derailed when a child is fearful or anxious about flying or driving in a car for long periods of time. For some children, traveling can be a thrill, and for others, it is intense, uncomfortable, and stressful. It can be helpful to discuss ahead of time the details of what to expect during the journey.  Go through a visualization of the sights, sounds, and experiences that can happen during the journey.  If your child is worried or anxious, validate their feelings and address them by coming up with a plan together.   Help your child to relax either before or during travel with breathing techniques and mindfulness to help keep their body calm and relaxed.  The Sticky Hubbubble mindfulness exercise helps children to notice their thoughts and feelings and practice letting them go.

Make sleep a priority.

Before departing, make sure that children have had plenty of sleep and maintain their routine sleep schedules while traveling.  Children who are well rested tend to do better adapting to new time zones and sleep schedules.

It is best to plan travel around routine sleep times.  Try to travel after naps since travel can excite and stimulate children, and if possible, plan to arrive at your destination right before bedtime.  Getting restful sleep during your trip will also ensure that everyone will be energized and ready for each day’s events. Using mindfulness during bedtime routines that are consistent and predictable will teach kids to relax at the end of each day and will help avoid bedtime battles.  Both Bedtime Gratitude and Goodnight Body can help little ones quickly drift into a peaceful slumber at the end of an action packed day

Can’t we all just get along?

If you plan for the journey and invest in making it a fun experience, it will be easier to avoid backseat bickering and the constant ‘Are we there yet?’ inquiries.  Sometimes the journey is the most memorable part of the entire trip for children.  In planning for travel time, you might consider incorporating: playlists, audiobooks, books, and classic car games, such as the license plate game or I spy.  Planning stops along the way when driving or regular walks or stretches on an airplane can help get the wiggles out and keep the mood positive.   Things may start off fine, but after being confined to small spaces for an extended period of time, children often get restless and agitated, which often leads to whining or bickering.  These are the moments when a mindfulness audio might come in handy, such as Growing Kindness or Cool The Volcano. The key to making your travel time a peaceful experience is to plan, be prepared, and expect the unexpected.

Making memories that last a lifetime.

Once you have made it to your destination, the hope is that your family enjoys the time together and that you make lasting memories.  Many families put a lot of time and energy into the planning of their itinerary and vacation activities.  To create these memorable moments, it requires that everyone, including children, are present and willing participants.  One way to help children enjoy and notice their surroundings is to start the day with a meditation.  Listening to meditations such as Notice the Moment or Check In & Notice can help children become more present in each moment and experience with greater focus. By listening, it can enhance a child’s moment-to-moment awareness of feelings, thoughts, body sensations, and the surrounding environment.

Traveling together should be a fun, memorable bonding experience for families.  Get the most out of your time together by planning not just for the destination, but the travel time that is required to get there.  Incorporating mindfulness during your travels will not only help kids feel calm and relaxed, counteract any potential stress, feel more positively towards others, help maintain healthy sleep schedules, but also be present and focused during your time together.  So, how will you incorporate mindfulness into your family’s adventures this summer?

(This article was originally published on the Mind Yeti blog.)

Want some more great tips from Melissa? Sign up now for her FREE Keep Calm Course (space is limited). This email course is for you if you’re ready to stop yelling & nagging and start connecting using tools and strategies that work! 

 


About the Author: Melissa Benaroya


Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area (MelissaBenaroya.com). She created the Childproof Parenting online course and is the co-founder of GROW Parenting and Mommy Matters, and the co-author of The Childproof Parent. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and frequently speaks at area schools and businesses. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues and Facebook for the latest news in parent education.

One Comment

Erin McCarthy, MSW, ACSW

Wonderful tips! I’m a huge fan of sharing mindfulness with the family ?My 6 and 8 year old daughters are always taught about mindfulness, much to their chagrin, at times?. I’m starting a mental health center in Costa Mesa, CA and will definitely be sharing mindfulness. ????❤

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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️
Speaking to the courage that is coming to life inside them helps to bring it close enough for them to touch, and to imagine, and to step into, even if doesn’t feel real for them yet. It will become them soon enough but until then, we can help them see what we see - a brave, strong, flight-ready child who just might not realise it yet. ‘I know how brave you are.’ ‘I love that you make hard decisions sometimes, even when it would be easier to do the other thing.’ ‘You might not feel brave, but I know what it means to you to be doing this. Trust me – you are one of the bravest people I know.’
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting #parentingtips #parentingadvice
So often, our children will look to us for signs of whether they are brave enough, strong enough, good enough. Let your belief in them be so big, that it spills out of you and over to them and forms the path between them and their mountain. And then, let them know that the outcome doesn't matter. What matters is that they believe in themselves enough to try. 

Their belief in themselves might take time to grow, and that's okay. In the meantime, let them know you believe in them enough for both of you. Try, ‘I know this feels big and I know you can do it. What is one small step you can take? I’m right here with you.’♥️
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting
Anxiety will tell our kiddos a deficiency story. It will focus them on what they can't do and turn them away from what they can. We know they are braver, stronger, and more powerful than they could ever think they are. We know that for certain because we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen them so held by anxiety, and we’ve seen them move through - not every time but enough times to know that they can. Even when those steps through are small and awkward and uncertain, they are brave. Because that’s how courage works. It’s fragile and strong, uncertain and powerful. We know that that about courage and we know that about them. 

Our job as their important adults is to give them the experiences that will help them know it too. This doesn't have to happen in big leaps. Little steps are enough, as long as they are forward. 

When their anxiety has them focused on what they can't do, focus them on what they can. By doing this, we are aligning with their capacity for brave, and bringing it into the light. 

Anxiety will have them believing that there are only two options - all or nothing; to do or not to do. So let's introduce a third. Let's invite them into the grey. This is where brave, bold beautiful things are built, one tiny step at a time. So what does this look like? It looks like one tiny step at a time. The steps can be so small at first - it doesn't matter how big they are, as long as they are forward. 
If they can't stay for the whole of camp, how much can they stay for?
If they can't do the whole swimming lesson on their own, how much can they do?
If they can't sleep all night in their own bed, how long can they sleep there for?
If they can't do the exam on their own, what can they do?
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When we do this, we align with their brave, and gently help it rise, little bit, by little bit. We give them the experiences they need to know that even when they feel anxious, they can do brave, and even when they feel fragile they are powerful.

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