As a mother of three and a school teacher, the majority of my day is spent with children. As I’m writing this my kids are asleep and I’m next to the fireplace with my laptop and a glass of wine, sitting on my yoga mat….multitasking my “free time” activities, meanwhile knowing that at any moment one of my children could wake up and crash this momma off duty’s party for one.
Let’s keep in mind that this party has a strict time limit since my alarm is set for 6:30am. An alarm that is completely pointless and set only out of the very slim chance that my kids won’t wake me up well before that so they can open their advent calendar and go in search of the elf. Oh the excitement! How could one possibly stay in bed with so much to look forward to?!
I’m just going to jump straight to the point.
Christmas and kids! Energy levels are at an all time high! Excitement is the current state of being and there’s no stopping this Polar Express from morning to night until the sugar crash around December 26th ish…
This can be a particularly difficult time for parents, childcare providers and teachers to navigate. The reality is, most of us “old” folks just don’t match this level of energy naturally anymore. It can be exhausting. It can try our patience. It can be overwhelming. Not to mention that some of us probably have a list of stuff to do that’s just as long as Santa’s but without the team of elves behind us….Yes, I’m talking to you! Especially you, the one with the messy bun and the glass of wine/cup of coffee feeling so exhausted you don’t know how you’re going to make it until Christmas. I get you! I’m here for you! I’ve got a few tips for you that you may want to keep in your back pocket for when you need it.
Spoiler alert: none of these are going to suddenly turn your child into a Christmas angel! This is more like a little care package of Chill Buttons that you can push when things are feeling a bit too high energy for you. You didn’t really want them to be Christmas angels anyway, right?? It’s Christmas! Kids are supposed to be excited! We just need to fit in a few moments of chill here and there so we can keep going!
Mindfulness/Meditation/Yoga for Kids. AKA: The Chill Buttons
Mindfulness and meditation is something I use daily for myself personally. The benefits of even just 10-20 minutes a day are huge! And it works for kids too!
At bedtime, we have a couple of things my kids and I like to do. One is something we call “Happy Breaths.” Everyone lays down in their beds, gets comfy, closes their eyes and we do five breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. But as we’re breathing in, I’ll give them a happy thought to visualize coming in with the breath, and as they breathe out I’ll tell them a not so happy thought to visualize getting rid of. Ideally, something that happened during their day or recently. For example, “breathe in with happy dreams of Christmas, and now breathe out the bad dreams” or “Breathe in thinking of the pizza we’re having for lunch tomorrow, breathe out fighting over the last piece with your sisters.” It can be anything that you and they want! They like to make up their own too, like “breathe in cuddles with Lucy” (that’s our dog) “and breathe out stepping in dog poop.”
This helps them calm down, they practice positive thinking, gratitude, and can release any negativity from their day.
We also do Imagination Bedtime Stories. Again, totally unofficial name, it’s just what we call it. It’s the same set up; lay down in bed, get comfy and close your eyes. Take some slow, deep breaths. Then, with their eyes still closed, I tell them a story (in my best meditative yogi voice I can achieve!). There are also some great children’s meditation stories on YouTube, we just found one recently with a Christmas theme. The idea is that they have to use their imagination to see the story. We’ve never actually made it through a full story, even on the days where they’re jumping off the walls with no sign of stopping. They fall asleep so quickly and then I’m sat there wondering why I don’t do this every night.
These can all be adapted for older children, teenagers and even yourself. The Happy Breaths is something I learned years ago in a yoga class, you just choose what to visualize taking in on your positive inhalation and what you need to get rid of on the exhale. Imagination Bedtime Stories, there are tons of these on YouTube for people of all ages if your child has decided they’re too old for bedtime stories. I can’t imagine that. I’d love someone to read me bedtime stories! Actually to be really specific I’d love for Nigella Lawson to read me bedtime stories. She has one of the most calm and soothing voices I’ve ever heard! I wouldn’t even mind if she just read me the recipe lists in her cookbooks! Ok I’ve driven slightly off topic here….but here’s an adult bedtime stories podcast I think you’ll enjoy.
With some of my students I like to do a mindfulness practice at the beginning of class, just to get them to slow down and center themselves before we start our lesson. They have so many different energies that they’re bringing with them that it’s nice to get everyone at the same level. We don’t do this every day but leading up to Christmas we will.
Before they even walk in I already have mediation music playing quietly. The key is quietly. They have to be quiet to hear it clearly so that already gets us a win. Next, they sit down at their desks and lay their heads down onto their hands, they can use their jacket as a pillow if they want, and close their eyes. It’s just a short practice, anywhere from 2 – 5 minutes. Sometimes I’ll get them to draw a picture of what they saw in those few minutes, even if it’s just colours or a few images. Or they can write about it if they want. Sometimes we talk about it. Sometimes we don’t do anything with it other than just enjoy the moment of peace together. The feedback from them has been really positive. They request it actually! It can’t go on for too long, anything longer than 5 minutes and they’re either bored or snoring so 5 minutes seems to be the magic number. And it doesn’t have to be a classroom full of kids, you can do this with your own child or children as well. Maybe after a birthday party or Christmas shopping. If you’ve forgotten to move the elf and you just need a minute without their little eyes following you!
Another fun and calming activity to do with kids is yoga. When yoga was developed thousands of years ago, it was based on the natural world using animals and plants as inspiration. Becoming a tree or a lion is a pretty natural thing for kids to go along with. I went to my yoga instructor friends for advice on this one and their overall consensus was that yoga with children is very much about following the child’s flow as they use their own creativity and natural sense of exploration. You can incorporate other creative mediums into the practice too like art or story telling. Keeping their attention however is the challenge. While they’re in a pose you can ask them things like “how far can you count while holding this pose?” or “Can you say all the abc’s while standing like a warrior?” They will probably like to invent their own poses as well. Like reindeer pose! I wonder how many different ways reindeer pose could be done? You could even ask them to make some animal shapes, write these down and then make a story about the characters they’ve created. When you get to each character in the story you do the poses they made together. If all goes well and you’ve managed to keep their attention this long, add a breathing exercise at the end like the ones mentioned above. Maybe this is even built into the story too! You could paint together after also, the animals or plants or scenes you created during the practice. Whatever sounds fun to you!
Actually this last Chill Button, following their flow….that’s really what I want to emphasize here overall. It’s Christmas! Of course they’re excited! The truth of the matter is, children are on another level of energy around the holidays because it’s exactly what we adults have asked for. We’ve made Christmas an exciting time of year! We want them to believe in magic! We want them to enjoy this time and remember it even after they’ve grown up and the magic has worn off. We want the beautiful memories and one day, maybe they’ll do the same with their kids.
I know it isn’t easy, or even realistic, to keep up with their pace 24/7 for the whole month of December. But give it a try! Join the excitement! Be grateful! Be joyful! Have fun! Hit those chill buttons every now and then when you need them. Take a few deep breaths yourself. Definitely fit in some self care. But do your best to let go and go with the flow.
Maybe you’ll even find that the magic hasn’t completely worn off for you after all!
I’m still sitting on my yoga mat. No actual yoga has happened yet. I think I’ll take the last sip of my wine and see what reindeer pose might look like!