This year’s global tribulations have almost universally been mirrored by internal reflection. Even the smallest among us have felt the uncertainty, the discomfort, the change in some way. But reflection is often a gift, even if it is accompanied by anxiety. The anxiety can mean change is underway, and it can be supported by mindful breathing and movement. The reflection, on the other hand, is an important tool in learning and growing, and it can be a great bonding experience with our children at year’s end, especially after a year like 2020.
Here are a few simple ways to enable your children to use mindful reflection during the holidays and in the transition to the new year.
1. Celebrating the Joy
The holidays can be a time of great joy with sweet treats, sparkling lights, giving gifts, and spending dedicated time with our loved ones. Here’s an easy and effective way to build on that sentiment and use it to reflect on the joys of the past year.
First, find a seasonal item that brings you joy—an ornament, a dreidel, holiday lights, your favorite holiday cookies—and take a minute to mindfully enjoy it. What does it look like, feel like, smell or taste like? What feelings or memories does it unveil? Spend a moment breathing and using your senses to experience the joy it brings. Now, allow yourself to be slowly transmitted to times over the past year where you felt this joy, where you felt a sparkle inside. It can be a person, a thing, or an experience that evoked that joy. Allow the experience to happen naturally without forcing it. As you do, keep a pulse on your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations during the experience. How does your heart feel? Do you feel connected?
This is an experience even younger kids can undertake with mindful parents. Offering the space and the guidance for such an experience can offer moments of shared joy.
2. Learning the Lessons
As you prepare for the New Year, you might spend a few moments to talk about each month of the year—what you did, who you saw, how you felt—and take away a nugget of learning from each of those months. How might the uncertainty and all the change helped you learn something about yourself or about the world? What might you not have done if you had not been quarantined or forced to adapt to the circumstances, as people did all over the world? (Note: This can also be a great way to teach our children about the nature and benefits of “adaptation” and “resilience”). How might that resilience be a gift to your family that will help you in the future?
This might be a mealtime dialogue for older kids, or for younger kids it might be a craft activity to draw thoughts and feelings. The reflection might take place all at once or incrementally over a number of days, as it feels right. The outcome of this reflection can help children and adults alike understand the benefits of the harder times, just as we innately enjoy the benefits of the easier times.
3. Embracing the Growth
Once the joy has been celebrated and the lessons have been illuminated, the growth is possible. A third reflection activity might be to talk about how the year has helped you grow in terms of what you know, what you do, how you feel, who you are.
This activity can be performed in a few ways. For older kids, it might be fun to bring that intention into a short meditation and allow the growth areas to emerge as thoughts and feelings to be discussed after the meditation is completed.
For younger kids, it might be more appropriate to create a collage of the different ways that growth is emerging and how it might manifest in the new year. You might choose to divide the collage into quadrants to illustrate 1) new ideas and understanding, 2) new activities and capabilities, 3) new friends and connections, 4) free space for anything else that reflects new opportunities for the new year. Once completed, it can be fun to hang this creative collage in your calm corner to be a reminder of the growth that is possible through perseverance and reflection.