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Merry Mindfulness through the Holidays
The holiday season can be a stressful time when it comes to traveling, coordinating with family, and, if you’re a co-parent, figuring out how to share the kids for holiday fun. With the holidays coming up, you may experience heightened conflict between you and your co-parent and a stir of emotions and stress. This year, let the holidays stay merry and bright! Read on to learn how to manage any difficult feelings that may come up through mindful parenting strategies.
Make Spirits Merry & Bright!
The holidays are meant to be a joyous time; allow yourself to enjoy it! Although a separated family situation can cause conflict, know that you have control over yourself and the ability to make choices regardless of your co-parent! Choose HAPPY! Here are some ways you can have a jolly good holiday season through mindfulness techniques:
1. Balance the should’s with your needs
Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I should be with my kid not them”, “I should have gotten my child a better gift.”, or “I shouldn’t be making so many mistakes.”? These “should” statements are cognitive distortions that impose heavy expectations as concrete rules for ourselves. Thinking in “should’s” can lead to resentment, guilt, and burnout.
This holiday season, if you catch yourself thinking in “should’s”, observe how making this expectation is affecting you. Know that you are human and have limitations. No one is a perfect parent. Take the time to sit with this and make space to meet your needs instead of expectations. By setting realistic goals and caring for yourself, you will be stronger to care for others!
2. Practice Self-Compassion
When your child is struggling or in pain, your immediate response is probably to see if you can help in some way. When you are struggling or in pain, would you want the same? This holiday season, there may be times where you feel lonely, sad, or angry. When these emotions come up, practice self-compassion! Think, “how do I recognize what is going on for me” and “if my friend or my child told me that they were feeling the way I am, what would I do for them to make them feel better?”. Take your answer and do it for yourself. You deserve the same love you give to those around you!
3. Be Open to Emotions
During the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to just go, go, go and be completely unaware of what is happening around and within you. Stay attentive and receptive to your child’s and your own emotions. The holidays bring up a load of emotions, and it may be so overwhelming that they are difficult to identify. A great practice with your child is to begin identifying the emotions they are feeling. Check in throughout the holiday season to ask them how they’re feeling. Try to name the emotion together, why this emotion was brought up, and what they want to do next. Likewise, you can ask yourself these questions. Allowing yourself to be open to emotions with your child and yourself can foster a great sense of security and peace.
4. Indulge in Gratitude
By developing your own awareness for the gifts and blessings in your life, your children will follow suit! The holiday season is a wonderful time to begin incorporating gratitude practice into your everyday life. Gratitude can sound like, “I’m so thankful we get to spend some time together!”, “I’m blessed to be alive and healthy today!”, or “I am so lucky to be a parent”. Make the gratitude concrete by sitting with your children at dinner (or the end of your time together) to think of one thing you were grateful for that day. You can even create a gratitude jar where everyone writes down something they’re thankful for and add it into a jar. Then when a negative headspace arrives, you or your child can open the notes and remind yourselves of these moments! Gratitude is simple but has great effects! The more you and your children practice gratitude, the more you’ll find yourself noticing all the things to be grateful for.
5. The Gift of the Present
There is no better gift than the present! It is so easy to fall into the trap of wishing for the simpler days of the past, or anticipating the events of the future. While it is good to take moments to reminisce and plan ahead, don’t let the present slip away! Practice being fully present in your current space, especially when you have the gift of being with your child. Rather than planning out what you need to do next, stop and think about your five senses. When you’re with your kid you can ask them what they hear. Maybe it’ll become your next favorite holiday song! Ask what do you smell. Are there delicious baked goods around or a favorite meal? Ask what do you see. Enjoy the sight of beautiful holiday décor! Ask what do you taste. Maybe a delicious homemade meal? Ask what do you feel. Embrace and cherish a warm hug with one another! It is great to practice this sense of presence through your five senses. Your children will be grateful once they grow up, smell the scent of cookies, and think of the times you’ve spent together.