Presents wrapped in silky bundles. Candles lighting up the room. The smell of balsam and fir. Savoring these moments and bringing mindfulness to each one allows us to truly remember the magic of this time of year. But how do we ensure this slowing down with all of the excitement swirling around us? We talked to Human Development Specialist, Parenting Coach and co-creator of the Slow Family Living Movement, Carrie Contey, PhD on ways to encourage a slow season of joy with your children.
From Carrie: This time of year can evoke a variety of emotions. Less light and cooler temperatures can spark a need to be inside more and allow for more cozying up at home. At the same time, holiday and seasonal festivities beckon us out into the world for connecting, gathering and celebrating. There are different phases, different occasions, different moods, different expectations and different tempos to this season and it can feel like a lot at times. Especially to little ones. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming when we approach the season intentionally. Using the following steps allows for clarity amidst the celebrations which in turn will create a grounded and calm season.
Perhaps the most important tool in creating a slow and steady season is to consistently take moments of pause. When things start to feel swirly and tense, take a moment, and take a breath. Now, take another moment and another breath. Give yourself some space and time to slow way down and just be. Get still and quiet enough to listen to you and what your heart, not your head, is communicating. This is a great thing to do with your children as well to encourage them to connect to themselves and settle.
Another way to encourage our families to pause and reconnect is through simple movements. Wiggle hips, jump up and down, wave your arms -- it's so simple and almost instantly can shift the way you and your family feel. Going outside is yet another simple way to pause and change the internal weather. Opening the door and stepping outside (even when it is chilly or rainy!) brings you into the present moment. Stepping back and making some space in the midst of the to dos is a really great way to get clear on what you are needing and what your others are needing. And that right there might offer you a whole new perspective on the holiday season.
The next step in creating a clear and spacious season is asking some essential questions for how you want the season to feel with your family. Ask yourself these questions:
- What about the holiday brings us joy?
- What matters the most to our family?
- Soothes our senses?
- Fortifies us through all of the various festivities?
- Evokes a sense of awe?
- Brings forth the feelings we want to feel?
Write your answers down to keep handy as you move through the holidays. As you answer these questions, the essentials of the season will emerge. What is the spirit of this season for you? Is it about giving gifts? Great, find ways to give gifts that feels good to you. Is it about having memorable experiences? Wonderful, create that for you and yours. There is no right way, there is just finding your way.
There will always be an ample amount of fun and busy activities to choose from during the holidays; lights to hang, parties to attend and gifts to purchase. If you love doing all of these things, that’s great! But if not, you can say no. The point is, you can choose. If you say yes to things you think you should do but don't really want to do, you will be less connected to the people around you. Trust yourself and give yourself a break. The people around you want YOU. Your presence is the best gift you can give.
Get some clarity around all the things happening throughout the season and clarify a plan. When are the parties? What gifts need to be purchased? What other obligations exist? Take the time to map out the essentials so you know what's coming. Then look at everything and allow yourself to figure out what you can graciously bow out of if it doesn't give you more of the feeling you want to have this season.
There will be crispy moments. There will be meltdowns. Even super fun days can be a lot, especially for children so try to create space around those fun times by not stacking too much back to back. Let things breathe. (And remember, if a plan isn't feeling like it will work or fit, you can say no!) Be present and hold a supportive environment for emotions to flow and try not to react to the big emotions. Be present. We all need compassion and space for the storms to blow through.
Even if an event ends in a meltdown, even when things don’t go as planned, and even when things are hard, sometimes the simple act of questioning can turn it around. Put on your appreciation glasses and ask, "What am I thankful for? What's working? What are some ways we are rocking this season?" Make the appreciation big or small, just try to make it a part of your day. What you appreciate, appreciates. Look for goodness. Look for success. Even if it's small, put your attention on what's working.
So there you have it! Five steps to bring more ease and joy into a holiday season that you get to create with intention. Let us know which one resonates the most with you. We wish you all the best for a slow season of fun family time that nourishes each one of you.
Carrie Contey, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized coach, author, speaker and educator. Her work offers a new perspective on human development, parenting and family life. She guides, supports and inspires her clients to live with wide-open and courageous hearts so they can approach family life with skill and spaciousness.
Carrie received her doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on prenatal and perinatal psychology and is masterful at synthesizing and articulating the science, psychology and spirituality of humanhood. She is the creator of several "personal growth through parenting" programs . She is also the co-founder of the Slow Family Living movement and the co-author of CALMS: A Guide To Soothing Your Baby. Carrie has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, NPR, CBS radio and in many publications including Time, Parenting and The Boston Globe. To learn more please visit carriecontey.com. and follow her on Instagram @carrieconteyphd