“Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.”  Come on, you know you sang that 😊. Christmas can be a magical experience, especially for those of us with young children, but we all know that it can also be the season to feel “all the feels,” especially those feelings of pressure and stress.

With routine and structure out the window over the holiday period, our kids can also feel that stress. “Boring” visits with extended family members, late nights, ad hoc meals and mealtimes, different sights, smells and sounds, ridiculously busy shops, watching us run around and stress about money, time, food and gifts, and long car trips for the annual holiday can all add to stress levels during this most festive of festive seasons.

So, what can you do? Apart from the usual advice of planning ahead, allowing for downtime, setting healthy boundaries, sticking to a budget, and setting realistic goals, you can also just “stop.” Stop and take each day or task moment by moment, and enjoy the process and the time that you have in front of you right now. Below are some simple breathing exercises and mindfulness activities to help you and the whole family do just that.

Breathing Exercises

4 Count Breathing for kids
Try 4 count breathing (or for our younger kids try 3 counts). Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4. Repeat 3 more times. Use a pinwheel or party blower to practise at home. Simply inhale, hold, and then exhale blowing the pinwheel or party blower. The more our kids practise this at home when they are calm the easier it will be for them to implement this when they are starting to get stressed. You can also use a straw in a glass of water or blowing bubbles in the same way. Inhale through the nose for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, and exhale through the mouth for a count of 4.

4-7-8 Breathing for Adults
This exercise works in the same way as our kids’ 4 count breathing, we are just holding and exhaling for a longer period of time. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then exhale through the mouth for a count of 8.

One Minute Meditation
Meditation allows you to live in the moment, to calm yourself and to regulate your breathing. Simply breathe in and breathe out (breathe into your belly if you can). Just concentrate on your breath. Every time your mind wanders just bring it back to your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. One minute is all it takes to reset the mind and calm the body. You should get about 16 breaths in one minute for a healthy adult or about 25 breaths in a primary school aged child so just count your breaths. Breathe in, one, breathe out. Breathe in, two, breathe out and continue for one minute.  See a visual representation here.

For more breathing exercises that can benefit the whole family please read this article.

Mindfulness Activities

Games
Games like “Eye Spy” and “20 Questions” are great mindfulness games that can be used to stay in the moment, to help distract, and to help prevent your child from worrying about what might happen next. We all know the mindfulness game “Eye Spy” and 20 Questions is another game that is also great for the car. Ask your child to think of an item that they have in their room, the name of a famous person, a type of animal or a favourite destination, the choice of topic is endless. They tell you the topic and then you get to ask them up to 20 questions until you have guessed correctly. (You can change the number of questions according to the child’s age).

5.4.3.2.1 Grounding Technique.
A mindfulness technique that I am sure you have heard of by now is the 5.4.3.2.1 grounding technique. Simply look around your environment and take note of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch/feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is a simple technique to use for any age and in any environment and one that you can do as a family. Just use your imagination and make it fun. Another activity that is great for the car and that long holiday road trip.

For other mindfulness activities for kids and teens, please read this article.

Apart from using the above strategies to manage the inevitable stress at Christmas time, you can also use them to help our more anxious kids (and yourself) with the back-to-school transition. Trust me it will sneak up on you so start using these strategies now and enjoy this holiday season.

Kim X

© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Written by Kim Norton 1st December 2022.