Summer trips can serve to refuel the family unit by keeping actively mindful.
Enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Trips are an ideal time to reset, reconnect and refocus the family. Cultivate joy with mindfulness on your summer vacation.
Traveling provides opportunities for your child to learn patience and responsibility. Children thrive on routine but travel can interrupt their schedule. If you remain optimistic and patient when flights are delayed, luggage lost or itineraries go off track, your child will learn to model this behavior. Children tend to struggle with transitions so keeping meal times and bedtime consistent is important, but if unexpected situations arise that interrupt their normal routine, being mindful teaches your child flexibility and ways to adapt.
Start at home with S.T.O.P. before you leave. On your trip, when you see signs of a meltdown, implement these four steps to easily bounce back.
A simple game for all ages!
Place STOP signs in the luggage, car, book bag, lunch box, house, etc. When you or your child approach a sign or anytime:
T—Take a breath
O—Observe what’s going on inward with feelings and sensations and what is going on outward. Do you see anything new? What do you hear? Feel your feet touching the ground. Connect.
P—Proceed on with a smile.
This game teaches you and your child to tune inward. Tuning inward allows us to reconnect with ourselves to reduce stress and anxiety. S.T.O.P. teaches us to approach mindfulness with curiosity rather than seriousness.
You can also try these two games:
The Popsicle Challenge
Give your child or children a Popsicle and ask them to be quiet during the whole game until they have finished it. Then ask questions about the Popsicle. How did it taste? What was the texture like? This is an excellent way to start a relaxing conversation with children and expand their curiosity.
The Notice Walk
Take your child or children for a walk. Ask them 10 things they notice on their walk. What do they see? How do they feel? What do they smell?
When summer days are too hot or too rainy to play outside, read a book with your child and talk about it. Ask about the storyline and the characters—how they think and feel. Ask your child if he/she ever feels that way? This can lead to a deeper and more mindful conversation. These bonding moments create magical anchors that last a lifetime.
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is not about just eating the right foods. It’s eating with peace of mind and expanding the senses.
- Play a game of trying new foods—become aware of the textures, taste and smells.
- Listen to your body when you are full.
- Eat when you are hungry—don’t put it off.
- Eat with other people at a certain time and place.
- Think about where the food comes from and how it gets to the table. What are the effects on the environment?
- And of course, eat nutritious meals!
Biohack Your Sleep
Create an environment to help you and your child to not only fall asleep, but also stay asleep. Getting enough quality sleep is healthy for both children and adults.
- Just before bedtime, turn the lights down. This signals to the body it is time to slow down and get ready for bed.
- Keep it cool. Set the thermostat between 67–68 degrees.
- Turn off all screens—TV, cell phones and tablets.
- Do a five-minute mindful exercise with your child. Ask them to imagine the outline of their body while slowly tracing it in their head. Ask them the amount of pressure they feel against the mattress. Where is there more pressure or less? Start with the head and end at the feet.
Breath—Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
As we become more aware (mindful) of our breath we activate the compassion and empathy parts of our brain. Self-compassion emphasizes our interconnection and offers more emotional stability than self-esteem because it is always there. Cultivating mindfulness in your child’s life gives them the ability to deal with whatever comes their way.
Remember, the goal of your summer vacation is to relax and reconnect with your loved ones. Reset and start fresh.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.