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Navigating challenging emotions at Christmas & over the Holidays

Christmas break is here, and like any holiday it can bring lots of joy, fun and family time into our lives. However, just like anything, not ALL of Christmas will be fun, and for some Children, it will bring up challenging feelings of sadness, grief or confusion.


While yoga and mindfulness are not cure-alls for these feelings, having a regular mindfulness practice has been proven to provide a stable base to navigate these emotions.


Yoga philosophy is embedded with some incredible lessons that can help children find their way back to calm, contentment at this time of year. At this point, we'll remind readers that it's important not to shame children for feeling certain emotions. We must help them to understand that emotions aren't simply 'good' or 'bad', but feelings that come and go, and do not define us.


In this way, asking children to "calm down" is unlikely to help in this scenario. I'm sure us adults have experienced this too. Rather, we can build on specific tools and practices to help children help themselves feel and accept their emotions.



Gratitude


Gratitude is a proven way to turn our emotions upside down. By focussing on the positive, remind ourselves (even if just for a moment) how many things are going right and we do have to be thankful for.


But the amazing benefits of a gratitude practice are really seen over the long term - think months & years. Fostering this attitude shows us that even in the worst of times, we always have something to be thankful for - even if it's just being able to breathe in and breathe out.


Some of my favourite ways to cultivate a gratitude practice with children are:


- Gratitude Tree (pictured)


Find a branch, stick or similar and place it in a jar. Fill with rice, stones or whatever you have to keep the tree steady. With your child(ren), make leaves, writing what you are grateful for. This activity is a great opportunity to discuss that we can be grateful for the smallest and most every day of things, like the sun shining.


- Daily Gratitude Habit


Pick a specific time of day to show thanks for things, for example while brushing your teeth, eating food or in the car. Model being thankful and share this activity with your children, in my experience they learn by copying more than being told!




Aparigraha - Non Attachment


A yogic principle from the ancient texts, the Yoga Sutras, non-attachment teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.


Non attachment at the Festive time of year is an especially valuable way to ground children. Christmas and holiday season can be fraught with comparison about presents, holidays, and food, and there will always be someone who has more than us!


Not being attached to what we receive and how people receive our gifts is a complex idea, but can be rooted in some simple practices for families:


- Craft

Collaborate with your child(ren) to make a craft, it can be anything you have in the house. Before you start discuss that it doesn't matter how it turns out, you're just going to try to have fun doing it. Talk about the principle of non-attachment to outcome, that we can only put our best foot forwards and see what happens (some of us adults might have a thing or two to work on there..!)


Then make your craft and see how it turns out.


- Breathing


If your child is struggling with a big emotion like jealousy or is feeling attached to a particular idea, breathing can really help. I love to practice humming bee breath, it's both fun and you feel a real difference after in both the body and mind.

To practice, simply bring your hands to your heart, and hum like a bee for as long as you can breathe out for. Repeat for a few rounds and discuss how you feel!


Just as with gratitude, we can model acceptance and looking at situations truthfully, encourage young people to do the same in calmer, more joyful moments (so they have those tools ready for harder times), and redirect to acceptance and truthfulness (as described above, making sure to first acknowledge and validate the feeling and then offer support).


These approaches can be in your toolbox as a parent and/or educator to help take the edge of anxiety for the young people in your life.


From us to you, we hope you have a restful holiday break, and see you in class in January!


Questions? Email Tash, the creator of this blog at info@thecalm-club.co.uk. We always love hearing from people in our community!


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