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

Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This