This article was contributed by Allison Morgan, mindfulness author and advisory board member of Ninja Focus, founder of Zensational Kids, a pediatric occupational therapist, renowned author, public speaker, and trainer. She’s sharing expert recommendations and tips for parents to make the holidays a little more “normal” in the middle of a pandemic.
For many people, life as they knew it has been put on hold due to the restrictions we all must adhere to with COVID-19. The days of waiting patiently for life to return to “normal” have passed. In fact, there has been enough time that has passed since the virus hit in early 2020, that we can confidently say, we have developed a new normal.
At first, this new normal was odd. Anything new is going to be strange to our human brain. We like consistency, predictability, and familiarity. It is what helps us to feel safe and secure, the most basic of our human needs. We are now about to embark on another adventure in experiencing something new—The Holidays.
This is a time of year that we typically would travel, visit family, go to parties at friends’ homes and restaurants, as well as within our offices. We typically deliver presents to share holiday cheer with others. Perhaps your family spends time in service for organizations or with individuals who need extra help and extra support during this time. While these traditions were part of the bedrock of the holidays, they may not be available to us this year. Although this season will look quite different than years past, we may be able to find some hidden treasures in our new “holiday normal.”
Here are a few suggestions to help you get through this new “holiday normal” that are based on the science of how our human brain is wired, with a sprinkling of strategies that will improve your relationships and boost your resilience. So, in other words, these may be things you choose to add to your life, regardless of whether or not we are in the middle of a pandemic.
- Set the Tone: You set the tone of what this holiday will feel like for your children. They certainly will get messages from your community, their peer group, and the news, however, how you feel and talk about the holiday in your home will have the greatest influence on how they feel. Start by asking yourself, am I already setting myself and my children up for being disappointed? Boost your awareness by noticing how you are talking about the holidays with others, especially when your children are present. When you listen to the things that you say, do you feel uplifted or upset? When your children talk about the holidays do you feel your own body get tense or weak? Although you think your children can not sense this inner state, they can, and it greatly affects how they will feel. You can also use a mindfulness platform like Ninja Focus that can be a great companion for your children to check in on ‘how they are feeling’ and listen to guided tracks from wellness experts.
- Make a List of Things You Do Not Have to Do: Rather than focus on what has been lost by listing all of the things that you cannot do this holiday season make a list of all of the things that you DO NOT HAVE TO DO because of the pandemic. Having worked with families for over 2 decades, I have found that many of them become overly burdened this time of year because of all of the obligatory things that they must do either personally or professionally. Start this list by titling your paper, “All of the things I do not have to do, and I never enjoyed doing anyway.” After you create that list, how does it feel when you read it?
- Focus on What Truly Matters: Without all of those obligations, you now have a lot more time to focus your energy on what truly has meaning to you and your family. Time for another list. What are some things that you wished you could have had more time to enjoy if you were not running all over the place during the holidays? How many times have you purchased gifts for your children, but then not have time to actually play with them? Focus on those things.
- Make New Traditions: It is a great opportunity to make some new traditions and get your children involved in it. Whether you are celebrating a specific holiday or simply taking some time off of work because school is closed, now is the time to collectively decide what family or individual things your children would like to explore during this time and perhaps share with you. Plan ahead, and yes, create another list by asking your children about things they are really interested in doing or learning and find creative ways to explore these things together.
- Spend Quality Time and Bond As a Family: Last but not least, remember that this is the perfect “storm” for you to actually BE together, as a family to talk and connect. Ask any child psychologist and they will tell you that the best way to raise children to be self-confident, respectful, happy, and secure, is to give them THIS most important present—YOUR PRESENCE. Simply being side by side, listening to each other without being rushed, speaking honestly about their dreams, fears, desires, challenges, and joys. This is what cultivates a happy home and healthy relationships.
Remember the most important thing is to spend a few moments each day enjoying the company of your children this holiday season. It can bring your family closer and boost your mood. If you think it helps, include yoga and mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. Ninja Focus is a great resource with short and easy to follow mindfulness exercises and meditations that you can practice as a family with your children. Happy holidays!