Take time to slow down with your kids this holiday season. By teaching your kids mindful breathing and a few yoga poses, your whole family can share the spirit of the season.
What happens to your family routine during the holiday season? Are you looking for ways to keep mindfulness and gratitude at the core of your child’s winter break? By using mindful breathing and a few simple yoga poses, you can help your kids make a grounded transition from school routines to the free-for-all of the holidays.
The festive season
The holiday season includes many social events and demands on our time. In addition, most young children shift from the organized, orderly school day to an unstructured two-week holiday. The Public Health Agency of Canada acknowledges the stress of the holidays on families and suggests parents take a proactive approach to managing this stress.
Practising mindful breathing and gratitude, and maintaining some simple family routines can help your family navigate the excitement of the holidays. And of course, you can try out some of these ideas before the holidays begin.
Practise mindful breathing
We all need to breathe! Slowing down when we feel busy and connecting with our family can be a great way to relax and focus on the moment. If you think your child is feeling overwhelmed with the holiday excitement, encourage her to try some breath work.
Sit with your back pressing against your child’s back in a comfortable position. Ask your child to feel how the breath moves in and out of the body. Try to encourage your child to feel your breath becoming synchronized. Count in and out for five breaths, one for each finger.
Sit down with your child in a comfortable seated position. Put your hand on your child’s back. Feel the breath coming into the back of the body. Try taking 10 deep, slow breaths together. Now change roles.
The holidays are a wonderful time to remind our families of all the people, experiences, and things we have in our lives to be grateful for.
Make a gratitude tree
Decorate a tree or your house with the things you are grateful for. Your child can draw people, experiences, or things she is grateful for on small pieces of coloured paper. This tree can act as a daily reminder of things that you are thankful for in your family.
Create new rituals
As a family, brainstorm some ways you can help others during the holiday season. Maybe you want to help prepare a meal at a shelter or through a church group. Consider bringing festive cards to a seniors’ home. This can be a way for your child to empathize with others. Then reflect, as a family, on your blessings.
Thank each other
One way to say thank you might be by participating in a shoulder massage train. Line up your family together in a row. Have each member give a shoulder massage to the person in front. Turn and switch the order so that everyone can have a turn. If your family is large enough, you can ring your train into a circle so everyone can give and receive a massage at the same time.
Practise healthy routines
When we are not able to keep our healthy daily routines during the holidays, maintaining the following three routines may be more manageable.
Consider trying to practise five minutes of quiet breathing together every evening before storytime and bedtime during the holiday season in order to establish a calm and consistent pre-bedtime routine.
Visit your local health food store and stock up on ingredients to make healthy meals and snacks for the holidays.
Consider practising some poses with your child, particularly when you think your child needs to centre herself.
Five festive yoga poses
Here are a few simple asanas (postures) to try with your little yogi at home. If you can, begin your yoga practice before the busy holiday season and then continue the practice through the holidays as a way for your household to calm and centre as a family. Try incorporating them after a regular daily activity such as brushing your teeth or clearing the supper table.
Please consult a health care practitioner for information and advice on the suitability of any exercise program.
1. Tree pose
Encourage everyone in your family to be a forest of trees spread about your living room.
- Stand up straight and tall. Breathe in and out and feel your feet rooting into the floor. Keep your eyes focused on one spot.
- Next, lift up one leg by bending at the knee and placing that foot gently on the ankle or calf of the other leg. Imagine roots keeping the tree anchored down through the leg that is on the ground. Breathe in and out while in tree pose and imagine being covered in decorations or snow.
- For a challenge, try lifting your arms in the air. Try to hold for 3 slow deep breaths.
- Slowly place your foot back on the ground and repeat on the other side.
2. Present pose
This is a variation on child’s pose.
- Curl into a ball in a fetal position, keeping legs and feet underneath the body and feet on the floor.
- Focus on breathing in and out slowly, feeling the breath move into the ribs and the back of the body. Younger children can pretend they are a present waiting to be unwrapped.
- After a few quiet breaths unwrap by jumping into the air.
3. Airplane pose
Maybe someone in your family is flying during the holidays?
- Stand up straight and tall. Reach your arms out to shoulder height, hinge the body forward at the waist and lift up one leg behind. Try doing the airplane pose while holding hands or supporting your child’s foot or leg.
- Count how many breaths your child can take in this balance posture.
- Switch sides.
4. Star pose
Get in a full body stretch and feel energized.
- Stand with legs wide apart and stretch your arms out wide, making a star shape. Relax the neck and shoulders and breathe slowly and deeply. Hold for 5 slow deep breaths.
- If there are more than two of you practising together, make yourselves into a circle of stars by holding hands.
5. Quiet sitting pose
Quiet sitting is something that you or your child can suggest whenever either of you are feeling hurried or frantic.
- Sit in a comfortable position (cross-legged, in a chair, or on your knees) and practise breathing in and out for 5 quiet breaths.
- For a challenge, do this with eyes closed.
Extra tips for a calmer festive season
- Plan quiet family breakfasts amongst all the busy social events.
- Invite your child to express how he or she is feeling about the holidays while going for an evening family skate or walk.
- Swap child care duties by setting up a play date before the school holidays with another family to give those parents some time to get prepared for the holidays. Then enjoy the rewards when your child goes to their house to play for the next play date during the holidays.