Let’s begin by remembering that emotional contagion is real – we are influenced by the emotional state of others especially when strong emotions are present.
So if we as parents and caregivers can hold a steady base of emotional stability as often as possible and create some self-nurturing practices it will make a positive impact on your family.
Mastering the art of de-escalation with an unexpected hug, a moment of novelty with a funny face, fake fangs, a tiara or a loud fart (especially for boys) can really help children who are struggling with a high level of the stress hormone cortisol!
Please make sleep a priority during the holidays as tired kids make for more melt downs. Set up a holiday routine and ensure no screens in bedrooms. Have a two-hour gap from small screens before bed and lots of time outside to ensure healthy levels of melatonin are maintained. Rest time every day also helps tired kids re group energetically.
Care for Grown Ups
- Claim some ‘me’ time ahead of time – make time to have a massage, pedicure, manicure, haircut, gym visit, yoga class, walk or run in nature. If money is tight – swap some time with a good friend or family member. For dads maybe a nap, a surf, a game of golf or any of the aforementioned options. Essentially this time is a time to receive rather than give.
- Have a date night or day by swapping with other friends – spending some quality time with your partner can do wonders for your soul.
- Relax some of your high expectations around house tidiness – have bed-free days when kids can leave beds unmade and toys scattered. Use that time for a fun activity with the family.
- It’s OK to lock yourself in your bedroom or the toilet for a few minutes of peace – from time to time – as it helps you regroup energetically and calm down.
- Pause when you have a cuppa and ask your children to ‘allow’ you to have a calm cuppa.
- For mums use my free audio Moonlight Relaxation for mums at least 3 times a week.
- Consider getting a fish tank and place a calm-down chair in front of it.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed consider booking your kids into holiday programs or OSHC – they are trained to keep kids busy and having fun.
Care for Kids
First, it is a good time to read, or revisit, this article:
And remember these things…
- Breathe deeply and often and encourage your children to do the same.
- Master the Parental Pause.
- Leave all phones and devices in a family storage box as often as possible.
- Have some go-slow days, chill out days or PJ days where there is no outside activity planned. If you can also have a technology free day that day – you can play cards, do easy craft, play board games while still in PJs.
- Gently and slowly tickle the tickle spot high up on the back at the base of the neck, above the shoulder blades.
- Do gentle ‘Round and Round the Garden’ in palm of child’s hand.
- In a family meeting at the beginning of holidays explain the holiday plan – relaxed mornings with an outside activity or adventure (a trip to the shops is not fun for kids). Also discuss the guidelines re screen use and what they can do with their screens. Maybe suggest they create their own best 3-minute video on a topic of their own choice by the last week of the holidays so they’re not just using screens passively.
- Plant some vegies or sunflower seeds.
- Instead of time out for your children – quietly tell them they are having some calm down time in their bedroom so they can calm their big ugly feelings and return when they are calmer.
- Remember the power of a good hug, especially with no words.
- Have a nap or chill on the couch.
- Do some yoga or Tai Chi (plenty of instructional videos on YouTube).
- Tap on the K27 points on your chest (just under collarbone), it’s a natural release point for tension.
- Make some sprout heads.
- Give the kids some double bed sheets to make a big cubby – inside or outside.
- Welcome friends into the home for extended playtimes – siblings behave much better when their friends are around.
- Have quiet time after lunch every day – they can read, sleep, build lego – anything quiet so that mum/dad/carer can have an hour break.
- Use one of my calming audios – Beach Bliss or Moonlight Magic for everyone in the lounge with pillows. NB: Watch out dad will possibly snore.
- Play nature sounds or calming, classical music often – in the background.
- Play statues or dead fish or play silent charades.
- Be outside as much as is safe in the hot Australian sun.
- Play with pets, real or imagined.
- Set up a massage room or salon that does pedicures and offer massages to each other.
- Use sandalwood or lavender essential oils.
- Read lots – and especially read engaging stories to them.
- Snuggle up and listen to an audio book.
- Snuggle up and have a movie afternoon with a good quality kids film or a fabulous nature documentary that blows their socks off.
- Have an invention competition – invent something that will make the world a better place. First prize is trip to zoo or movie with a friend.
- Singing and dancing with people we love reduces stress.
- Lighten up – be silly wear wig, funny glasses, fake teeth, capes
Some extra stress-reducing tools you can use
For those children who are struggling with heightened levels of stress, struggling with sleep or irrational fears that are getting worse rather than gradually getting better, I have two free audios that have helped many children.
Last year I also created a creative visualisation specifically for under 10-year-olds to learn ways of managing feeling anxious. It’s called Soothing the Frightened Butterflies
For teens and dads there are many other relaxations on my website.
Habits make a difference with reducing stress — helping your children to develop helpful habits is really important. They do model off you, so maybe you can start today.
Just do one thing a day and you will make a difference — a positive difference.