The holidays can be the perfect occasion to teach our
children about gratitude as we give to and receive from those we love. New Years, in particular, offers a special time to celebrate the successes of the past and set goals for the future.Most of us develop our own “New Year’s Resolution” lists without thinking about how our children view this unique holiday or whether they have goals they’d like to set for the new year.
This year, consider taking the opportunity to help your children process the past and welcome in the future with some fun and creative mindfulness and meditation practices. In doing so, you’ll help the concept of gratitude come to life while also giving them the gifts of mindfulness, meditation and visualization as tools they can use throughout the coming year.
Celebrate Successes of the Past
It can be fun to think about all the good times from the past year, and it can be cleansing to process the difficult times and lessons learned. To begin, tell your children you’re going to join them in welcoming memories from the past year into your mind as you prepare to begin a fresh, new year. Find a comfortable place to sit and come to your “meditation seat”. This can mean sitting cross-legged on the floor with a straight back and hands resting on your knees. This can also mean sitting in a chair or lying down, whatever is most comfortable for a few moments of deep breathing and relaxation.
Next, spend thirty seconds to a minute (or more, if possible) breathing deeply and thinking about all the fun times of the last year. You can guide them through the imagination process by asking the following questions: “Were there new experiences? Did you make new friends? Did you learn anything new and interesting? Did you overcome something you were afraid to try or accomplish something that took a lot of focus and effort?” For each thought that arises, have them take a deep breath and smile on the exhale as they send that thought to the center of their heart.
Next, spend some time breathing deeply and thinking about any difficult experiences or lessons that were learned throughout the year. You can guide them to imagine that each of these thoughts is a bubble. Once they’ve had a chance to think of the experience or the lesson, they can blow it away with a deep breath and a big exhale out of their mouths. You can also give them each a big, warm hug once all their bubbles have been blown away. (Be prepared to help them process any emotions that come up after that meditation, including sadness or anger, by talking, crying, hugging, or whatever else feels right in the moment. It can be incredibly helpful to physical and mental health to fully process any emotions that may be suppressed from the past. Just be prepared to help them do so).
Spend the last few breaths giving thanks for every experience of the year and for all the people who touched your hearts. As you finish this meditation, you can take a minute to talk together about what you saw or how you feel, or you can take a few minutes to draw it instead. This gives them a way to express their feelings and fully process what’s come up in their own, creative way!
Prepare for the Year Ahead
While I agree it’s important to enjoy the present moment rather than focusing on the future, it’s possible to use meditation and mindfulness to help our children prepare for the future while also creating the tools that will help them live in the moment.
First, take thirty seconds or a minute to set one goal for the year ahead. (You’ll guide your child to set a goal, but I encourage you to join in and set a goal as well!). Unlike traditional New Year’s goals, it’s important to keep this goal positive and broad rather than narrow and overly specific. For example, a positive goal for a child can be to “try a new activity throughout the year” or to “get outside into nature more often”, rather than “to make the varsity football team” or to “get an A on each spelling test”. Keeping it broad offers possibilities given the changing dynamics throughout the year.
Once you each have a goal in mind, spend a minute to breathe deeply thinking about accomplishing the goal. This is where the powerful tool of visualization, mixed in with some good old-fashioned imagination, can make an idea come to life. What are some fun and creative ways to achieve the goal this year? Who else can be a part of making that happen? How can you help each other be successful?
Afterward, take a minute to talk together about how it will feel to accomplish that goal. This is a good exercise to bring mindfulness into the mix. Will you feel excited? Energized? Happy? Proud? Try to be specific with the word choice and also describe where in the body you usually feel it. Perhaps you feel happy, excited, or energized in your heart, shoulders, or hands? This is a great way to encourage mindfulness and a better understanding of the body.
Next, have some fun by making up a “code word” to describe that goal, such as “nature” for a goal to get outside in nature more often. Make a pact to come back to that word periodically throughout the year during meditations. This can help re-ignite the excitement of reaching the goal and also encourage a positive attitude when needed. During future meditations, be sure to also revisit the discussion about where in the body that feeling of accomplishment resides and maybe even put a hand on that part of the body during the meditation. And don’t forget to continue the dialogue throughout the year and to continue drawing what you see and feel after each meditation!