There are cards to be sent, presents to be bought, wrapped, hidden, or delivered; food to be purchased, meals to be prepared, and don’t forget about decorating! Did I just raise your stress level? If so, I apologize! Take a moment to take some slow, deep breaths.
Have you ever wondered if the holiday season makes kids feel anxious or stressed? The answer for some kids is yes, although the reasons for their anxiety might be different. They may be wondering if they will get what they asked for or who is coming to dinner. Maybe they don’t want to go to grandma’s house, especially if some relatives don’t get along. If parents are separated, children may be feeling anxious that they won’t get to see both of their parents.
Now, imagine these questions circling in a child’s head and add to that the fun, over-stimulating parties and activities at school, disrupted schedules and late nights, and we have the perfect recipe for a meltdown, inappropriate behavior, or inability to fall asleep. So yes, kids feel stress at the holidays too. We just may fail to recognize it because it’s supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”.
A simple Google search of ‘kids and holiday stress’ brings up several articles that support the idea that kids feel stress at the holidays too. An article by David Fassler in the Huffington Post in 2010 acknowledged the stress that kids can feel during the holidays and offered 10 Tips for Helping Your Child Cope with Holiday Stress. Some of my favorites include:
- Discuss plans in advance.
- Don’t overschedule.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings, even if they are negative.
- Let young kids know ahead of time who they can expect to be there, how you expect them to behave (ex: play with your little cousins) and give an approximate time (if known) of departure.
This article about Holiday Stress and Anxiety in Children recommends setting a calm example, getting kids moving, and building in time for relaxing. Yoga can be a great way to accomplish all of these things. In Lisa Flynn’s book, Yoga for Children, she provides a sequence for Stress/Anxiety Reduction as well as a Bedtime Sequence that parents can easily do with their children.
Practicing belly breathing with kids when they are calm and encouraging them to use it when they are feeling anxious is a great way to help them destress on-the-go. Invite them to join you by focusing on expanding their belly on the inhale and drawing the belly back on the exhale. They may benefit from thinking of their belly like a balloon, slowly inflating and deflating with each breath (See Balloon Breath activity card from the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck).
My favorite breathing technique to teach kids is Turkey Breathing. Here’s how to do it:
- Hold your hand up in front of you or on a table and trace each finger as if you are making a handprint turkey.
- As you trace up a finger, take a slow, deep breath in and as you trace down a finger, exhale slowly. It’s simple, yet very effective and easy to do anywhere.
Holidays can be stressful for everyone but is we are mindful of this, talk about it, take care of ourselves, and build in time for fun, relaxing time together, we can have a less stressful, more joyful holiday season!
Colleen Smith, RYT, RCYT, has been teaching yoga to kids in the Syracuse, NY area for 16 years. While Colleen had previously trained with Radiant Child and YogaKids, she decided to further her training with ChildLight Yoga beginning in 2015 and recently completed their 95-hour training program. Colleen has a M.S. and CAS in School Counseling and worked as an Elementary School Counselor in an inner city school district for several years. She started doing yoga when her son was three years old. He was a very busy child and much later was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety. When he was still very young Colleen took her first training, came home and did some yoga and relaxation with him and he loved it! She has been hooked ever since! After seeing the positive impact it had on her son, Colleen began teaching yoga to local kids and families. Her business has grown and in 2014 she started BeLive Yoga. In each yoga class that she teaches she focuses on giving kids tools they can use to deal with stress and anxiety now and as they grow up. Currently, Colleen is teaching yoga in several school districts, preschools and studios. Many of the elementary schools she teaches in are in the inner city and she enjoys developing relationships with the kids there who need something positive, helpful and hopeful in their lives. She enjoys bringing yoga into schools and classrooms and seeing the impact it can have on kids and teachers. In addition to yoga, Colleen enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and volunteering.