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5 top tips to get through the summer holidays

Priya Khan @ Little Crystal Minds

1. Connect with your child

As humans we crave connection, us adults often connect is through words however children need a deeper level of connection. Their prefrontal cortex (logical and verbal part of their brain is not fully developed). Children connect better by less talking to and more just being with. By being fully present with your child through non-verbal communication, children especially younger ones are able to feel the connection. Nonverbal communication:

  • Make eye contact, hold their gaze, let them feel seen, safe and cared for.
  • Make your facial expression soft and full of compassion, let them know they are loved no matter what they do.
  • Provide an understanding tone of voice that is nurturing, providing support and advice
  • Skin to skin, through touch, stroking the palm of their hand, their back or a snuggle hug.  Touch releases oxytocin that makes us feel good.  Touch helps us connect and bond, children with strong bonds to their care givers often develop better self confidence

When we are fully present with our children non-verbally, we become in-tune with them, we have fully connected with them.

2. Self-care

Self-care is a necessity if we want to keep our cool and give our best to our children and family. If you are depleted, exhausted, generally too hard on yourself - no matter how much you try, your children will sense you are off your game. They will feel your energy is low, you are stressed and frustrated. So if you can’t do it for yourself and feel too guilty, do it for them, because when you are revitalised, you are able to give them the best of you. It will make parenting a whole lot easier in the long run, when we give ourselves even a minute of self-care. Every day do something little for yourself, ask yourself, what do I need to give me energy, what do I need to make me feel great, what do I need right now? It could be more sleep, time in nature, time out, good food, fun with the kids, gratitude, affirmations, coffee, chocolate, water lots of water, a chat with a friend or even just a few deep long slow breaths to ground yourself.

3. Let go of control

With parenting we need to let go of the notion that we can control the day, as we cannot control our children, they are not here to be controlled by us, we can help shape and guide them but not control them, therefore we cannot control our day.

Part of this parenting journey is realizing that one size doesn’t fit all - all children are different, we are all different, each day is different and each scenario is different, therefore we should not have any expectations on how we control each situation that arises.

As parents, we need to let go of having a set outcome and just go with the flow as anything could happen. This doesn’t not mean giving your child a free pass with whatever they say and do or treating you disrespectfully, but can you recognize that we cannot script the day and that we need to improvise how we deal with the outcome rather than trying to change the situation.

This doesn’t mean that we always like what is said and done, but we accept what has happened and then make a wise choice on how to move forward

In every moment we have a choice…but what are the things we can and not control.

We cannot control what always comes out of our children’s mouths, but we can control how we deal with it. We cannot control when our children lose their sh*t but we can control we how we deal with it, we cannot control our children’s emotions but we can control with how we help and support them through their big emotions. When you try to control everything you enjoy nothing, sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go and live in the moment.

When we have given ourselves some self-care we are in a better head space to be in the moment and handle each situation with more kindness and compassion.

4. Get out and about

As much as mindfulness is about being in the moment, it doesn’t mean we can’t plan – especially with 6 weeks of summer hols on the horizon. To enjoy the 6 intense weeks, it’s important to get out and about as much as possible. When we are all stuck in the house, we start to get cabin fever, children start to fight more, boredom kicks in and nobody knows what to do except wind each other up. Even half an hour outside the house makes all the difference. Get outside in nature, to the park, woods, beach, forest, let the kids feel free, get their bodies moving with fun and play.

Research shows many benefits to being outside in nature. Just breathing in fresh clean air, taking deep breaths, getting the oxygen flowing and boosting our cells, strengthening and cleansing us. Within just minutes of being surrounds by trees, green space or near the sea, your blood pressure drops, your heart rate slows and your stress levels come down.

Let them run about in bare foot, so they can ground themselves, connect to the world around them, use all their senses aware of the earth beneath them, the air on their face, the heat of the sun, the cool breeze. What can they see, have a treasure hunt for a certain colour or things that feel are they smooth or rough? What smells surround them and what can they hear, a little mindful listening game of all the sounds surrounding you.

Ask children how they feel before the leave the house, then again when they are out and then when they are back home. Teach them to notice the different feelings, the nice happy, relaxed excited feelings as well as the frustrated, sad, annoying, angry emotions they have.

5. Have a calm zone

Everyone, no matter what age, needs time to themselves. Having a calm / relaxing zone or area for your family is important. It provides a safe space for your children to go to when they have big emotions or feelings they don’t know how to handle and no amount of connecting or talking works, they just need their own space. A calm zone is a comfortable place for them to calm down or just have some down time with little stimulation, noise or bothersome siblings. A calm zone is not to be confused with time out space, it is a place where your child chooses to go to where they have some sensory toys to help calm and relax them.

Pick the right spot for this space, somewhere away from noise and disturbance from other people. Have a discussion with your children as to what they would like in the area. My suggestions are:

Breathing toys – feathers, hoberman sphere, glitter bottles, or sensory jars, pinwheel, breathing buddy toy

Touch – squidgy ball or balloon, pebbles, heart stones, worry stones, sequence pillow, fidget spinners or toys,

Sound – Tibetan bells or singing bowl, relaxing music, guided mediations

Extras – yoga cards, affirmation cards, colouring mandalas.

I would suggest going with your child and talking through all the items in the calm zone so that when they choose to go by themselves they can decided what they need to help them relax and calm down. These areas work wonders for children to start to learn how to self-regulate their emotions and also can be a nice area for us parent to go to and model the behaviour we want from our children.

Summer holidays are about unwinding, connecting, relaxing, learning new things around us and about ourselves, so let’s have fun and learn to be fully present and in the moment with our children. Memories are stored depending on the strength of the emotion and the presence of the person, so be in the moment using all your senses full of joy and happiness so your children have memories they tell for years to come.

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