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. ????❤

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
.
.
.
#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
.
.
#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This