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5 tips to keep the whole family happy and sane during the holidays
The holiday season gets the best of us every year and right now, there is so much pressure to make the holidays special and make it count.
First off, I want to say… please take the pressure off yourself to make it perfect. Life is 2021 is extremely random, with rules and social restrictions changing week to week. Travelling to see family comes with having to read government websites, gathering paperwork, filling out forms and paying additional fees just to see family.
That aside, there are helpful “practices” you can do for yourself and the kids to keep yourself grounded and ready for anything this holiday season. These are practices you can do every day within minutes. Most of the time it is about taking a moment to pause and focus.
Pick 1 or 2 tips and write them down, somewhere you can see it and practice. I place my top-of-mind practices on the bedroom mirror or in the kitchen above the stove where I see it multiple times a day.
See how the practices make you feel and see how the kids react. The proof is in the pudding.
Tip #1 – Create a feeling of safety.
Tip #2 – Take care of yourself first.
Tip #3 – Create opportunities to check in.
Tip #4 – Know the signs of overwhelm
Tip #5 – We are human.
Tip #1 – Create a feeling of safety.
Help them to feel seen and heard.
When we are busy and running from task to task or answering text messages, it is easy to not really hear or see what the kids are doing. They go around feeling invisible.
Make time to connect, look in their eyes and really listen to them. It doesn’t have to be every time they come to ask a question, but do make a point of connecting and be present with them.
The Secret Handshake!
Use hand signs or gestures that help create a bond between you and your child. It could be a secret code word, a secret handshake, or funny look with big eyebrows. Allow your child to use the secret gesture as something they can do if your child feels awkward but doesn’t want to bother you at a party. It allows you to stay connected, even when floating around a party or even at the big family dinner table. This helps them to feel safe, that they have a direct line to you and that you will help them if they need help or comfort.
Tip # 2 – Take care of yourself first.
If you are balanced and grounded, it is easier to respond versus react to family situations. Here’s what to prioritise during the holidays to stay well balanced.
At night we rest and recuperate from the day, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you don’t have restful sleep, we start to get rough around the edges and less patient with ourselves and others. Focus on going to bed at the same time every night with a nice wind down routine to teach your body to rest.
Time away from everyone.
Give yourself permission to go for a walk or a run outside without anyone every day. This gives you time to digest your responsibilities and allows you time to prioritise and remember what is most important to you. Also being constantly “on” with family is exhausting. Give yourself a break.
Staying well-nourished allows our body to work at its best. We often say: good food, good mood. Focus on eating foods that make your belly feel well and your digestion flowing regularly. Eating well and not skipping meals can help your blood sugar to be stable and keep you stable emotionally. For some delicious plant-based recipes with the taste of the holidays, check out our Juice Plus+ Warm Up Your Winter Cookbook. The 10 easy to prepare recipes include a Candy Cane Peppermint Shake, Chocolate and Cranberry Balls and a Gingerbread Spice Shake! Ask your Juice Plus+ Partner for more info!
Tip# 3 – Create an opportunity to check-in. And check-in often.
We get so busy and frantic with to do lists and obligations; it is so easy to miss when someone is not doing okay. These next practices are to help give a way in to talk about emotions which can be difficult for children. And let’s be honest, many adults have difficulty talking about how they feel as well.
Practice with yourself first and possibly your partner.
I use these fun tools to give a language to speaking about emotions.
You can use simple rocks of different shapes and colours. I use semi-precious stones as they are said to have healing properties; my magic stone set includes small stones of rose quartz (pink), sodalith (blue), aventurine (green), amethyst (purple) and amber (yellow/brown). But you can use any stones and even paint them different colours if you want.
1. Placing the rocks loose on the table, let your child pick a stone. And you pick one as well. You as the adult go first asking questions and answering them:
- Ask, why did I pick this stone?
- Why does that colour speak to me?
- What is special about it?
- Is there something about the shape or texture?
2. Once you all start talking and discussing, it is easier to ease into conversations about feelings and worries about the day’s events.
3. If there is tension, worry, or jealousy (which is common during gift giving season,) each person can keep the stone in their pocket to remind themselves that everything is okay. It is good energy and a good feeling to have something with you to remind you, every time you touch it, that everything is okay.
Cooking in the Kitchen – Together!
Did you know, all bonding happens in the kitchen during the holidays? Get your kids to the prep table and peel, chop, and roll with all the different ingredients. Cooking with the kids has multiple benefits, here are my favourites:
- You can teach them about where their food comes from and what goes into a holiday meal, such as cranberries, oranges, and cinnamon. We do smell tests with eyes closed to see if we can identify each ingredient!!
- It is amazing to all your children to be a part of the preparations instead of being side-lined and off on their own trying to “behave” in uncomfortable nice clothes.
- You get to connect with them while the focus is on something else. You can open the conversation and make them feel a part of something bigger.
- You are teaching them a life skill and independence in the kitchen J
Worry Eater Monster (Sorgen Fressers)
I love Sorgen Fressers!! The name literally translates to “Worry Eaters” in English. Invented in Berlin, they are adorable plush monsters with a BIG MOUTH and a zipper to zip their mouth closed.
How a Worry Eater works:
- If your child (or you) has a worry, write it down on a piece of paper.
- Fold up the paper and place it into the mouth of the Worry Eater.
- Zip it closed!
- Let the Worry Eater Monster take care of the worry!
This action is symbolic of taking the worry out of the mind and placing the worry outside of ourselves. Zipping it closed is very visual as it locks the worry away. My son uses this when he has bad dreams at night. I use it when I am stressing about an event or when I have a conflict with someone.
The best part is that you gain insight into what worries your child.
It is a pause to centre and revaluate what thoughts we have and what thoughts they have. You don’t have to fix the problem immediately, but it does let you know what they are thinking about. And then you can decide if there is a course of action to take.
Wishes on a tree branch
There is fun and insightful plus gets us thinking in a positive way of what we want more of in our life.
- Small piece of paper with a hole punched out.
- Ribbon or yarn cut long enough to tie on a tree branch.
- Pens, crayons, or markers.
- Each person makes a wish on a piece of paper
- Use the ribbon or yarn, tie it to the holiday tree or tree outside
- The universe will consider their wishes
In our friend’s circle, this is what the kids wished for:
- A lasagne
- Grandma to come visit from across the ocean
- Pokémon cards
You never know where someone’s brain is at… so give them the opportunity to share and as the adult, don’t laugh! Really take time to appreciate their point of view and hug them up for it. We wanted to laugh at the lasagne wish, but the child really loves his mommy’s lasagne and couldn’t get enough.
Tip #4 – Know the signs of overwhelm
There are tell-tale signs of stress in both adults and children. Take notice when someone is acting or feeling strange. You do not need to do anything, but pause, take a breath, centre yourself and then see if there is an action to take.
Getting in trouble
Crying or whining about little things
Clenching the jaw
Tummy ache or upset digestion
Sometimes we cannot explain how we feel.
It is easier to talk about bodily sensations instead of saying I am happy, sad, or upset. Here are common ways we sense emotions in the body and easy words you can use with your children.
What do you feel?
- Sensation: buzzing, tingling, prickly
- Body temperature: hot, warm, cold
Where in the body do you feel it?
Tip #5 – We are human
With the world of social media and everyone posting their absolute bests, it is hard to imagine that the world is actually quite messy and full of mistakes. We learn by doing. We learn by doing it wrong and then trying it again.
- If you mess up, say you’re sorry. Come to their level, on your knee or sitting on a chair. Look them in the eyes and apologize. This teaches your children (and other adults) the importance of not being perfect and how accept apologies.
- If they mess up, be there with them. Most often, it is not the end of the world when they mess up. It can be disappointing, and that message can be conveyed. Just make sure they know they are still loved and accepted by you. Ultimately feeling safe.
If there is one thing I want to say… is please PAUSE and take time to breathe.
Have a lovely holiday season!
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