So how can we increase and enjoy the positive moments with our family, manage stress, and moderate expectations? Below are some strategies that might help.
Be deliberate in being PRESENT.
- Set aside and take time to enjoy and have fun with your child or teen. Children need to feel connected. This will help buffer stress and promote a strong positive relationship. Aim for frequent warm, sensitive, responsive interactions. Aim for many more positive interactions than negative ones (which are inevitable).
- Set Aside Time with Each Child Daily. Spend 5-10 minutes each day for one on one special time. Give full focus and attention to one child at a time. This is deliberate, intentional positive PLAY that is child-directed, without negative talk, criticism, correcting, questioning or direct “teaching”.
- Spending time with teens watching shows or movies and sharing meals is great but try to add one-on-one activities that do not involve screens. Puzzles, art projects, music, taking a walk together, or cooking allows time to talk and provides an opportunity to check in with your teens. Validate feelings. Listen. Take your teens perspective
- Laughing is an excellent stress reliever. For recommendations about funny and ridiculous movies to watch with children and teens see:(https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-family-movie-laughs).
- Self-Care for parents is important. Self-care for yourself is necessary to be able to support your child’s emotional well-being. Sleep, exercise, and good nutrition, as well as limiting triggering news, caffeine, and alcohol are necessary. Taking deliberate moments to relax and be mindful are also important and help model effective coping strategies. Learn and practice relaxation techniques. Reach out for support when needed.
Stay in the moment
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a relaxation strategy that can help calm. The aim is to focus on your current experience. This includes noticing emotions, thoughts, and sensations without judgment. Anxiety often involves what if? thoughts about the future. Focusing on the present moment reduces stress and stops this type of anxious thinking. It slows the mind and helps to relax. Two examples are below. More can be found at: Family Mindfulness Aid: www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/family-mindfulness-schedule.pdf. How mindfulness can help: https://childmind.org/article/how-mindfulness-can-help-during-covid-19/
- Sit straight. Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do a simple check-in of your emotional state, any physical discomfort, and your thoughts. Focus on the feeling of your breath, Notice the sensations as you take a breath in and out.
- Practice gratitude. Start a habit with your family to end the day (bedtime or dinner) on a good note. Have each person say something (or more) that he or she is grateful for right now.
- Use Grounding techniques when emotions feel overwhelming. When children are upset, angry, or stressed you need to be calm to be able to respond compassionately and maintain connection.
- Grounding is different than other relaxation strategies. It is a more active strategy to detach from emotional discomfort or pain (anger, anxiety, sadness), and focuses on distraction. It is helpful when distress or negative feelings are more extreme or feel overwhelming. It can also help when you or your child are feeling distressed, triggered, or you feel “numb”. It can help become centered again and calm down and reorient to be in the “here and now”.
- Grounding does not solve the problem causing negative emotions, but it can help you regain control and prevent you from feeling worse or reacting in a way you might regret. It allows you to calm down and get through a difficult moment. It can be done anywhere and anytime. Some examples you can try with your child are below:
- Physical grounding
- Touch objects around you. Notice how each feels.
- Place both feet firmly on the ground, push and feel the ground below you.
- Run cool water over your hands. Stretch.
- Stress Press
- Flatten your palms and press them together, raising your arms so that your forearms are straight and parallel to the floor. Push them together. Release. Repeat.
- Mental Grounding / Soothing
- Play a “categories” game. For example, name animals alphabetically (alligator, bear, cat...) name types of cars, songs with “love” in title, name all the red things you can see, then blue.
- Ground with 5 Senses: Name 5 things you can see. 4 Things you can feel. Name 3 things you can hear. Name 2 things you can smell. And 1 thing you can taste.
- Come up with a coping statement that you (or your child) can repeat such as, “I can handle this”, “this feeling will pass”, “I am safe right now”.
- Other examples can be found at: Grounding Techniques: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/grounding-techniques.pdf
May you experience wonderful moments of connection with your child and family. We wish all of you Happy Holidays.