by Kathy Simpson
Ah, the magic and mystery of the holidays. Oh, the stress that comes along with them. This season of joy can be a minefield for parents whose already busy lives are compounded by the shopping trips that never end, decorating, baking, wrapping, socializing, and organizing. How do you navigate the demands of this hectic time of year while keeping the spirit alive for your children and yourself? These mindful parenting tips can help you give the gift of your presence to your children this holiday season, even when the pressure is on.
Remember what is truly important. This is the basic tenet of mindful parenting. Your wellbeing and that of your children are deeply entwined, says Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction founder Jon Kabat-Zinn. If your children suffer, so do you, and vice versa.
When you’re aware of and sensitive to the needs of your children, you’ll be better able to find ways for everyone to get what they need, even when those needs conflict. Through the quality of your presence, your children will feel the strength of your commitment to them, even in times of stress.
When you get stressed, pause and take a breath. Stress can put you in a reactive mode that causes you to do or say things you later regret. A deliberate pause, a few deep breaths, and the conscious intention to relax your body and mind can be remarkably restorative, and allow you to respond to the situation (and your children) with greater clarity, openness, and ease.
Be emotionally available. Take time each day to engage with your children. Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. If they are upset about something, hear them out. This may not always be easy when you’re under pressure to meet the demands of the day, but your kids may be feeling holiday pressures of their own. By offering your undivided attention, you let your children know they are valued, heard and understood.
Cultivate compassion. Parenting is a tough job. Even with the best of intentions, it’s inevitable that you will make mistakes and confront your own faults and imperfections many times over. That’s why compassion is an essential practice to have in your mindful parenting toolkit. You need to love and accept yourself as you are even while you continue to grow as a person and a parent. And, the more compassion you have for yourself, the more compassion and kindness you’ll have to give to your child.
See the holidays through the eyes of your children. Kids are the true Zen masters. They live in the moment and the immediacy of whatever arises: sorrow, joy, pain, hunger, delight. As adults, we’re largely preoccupied with reviewing the past and planning for the future. Children have much to teach us about being present.
This holiday season, consciously make an effort to step out of your parenting role and look through the eyes of your children. Join in their curiosity, wonder and innocence. You’ll gain a renewed appreciation for the simple things in life and open your heart and mind to the magical spirit of the season—and that’s a gift both you and your children will cherish.