Have a soothing summer vacation with the help of these six mindfulness exercises for traveling with kids.
Family vacations can be magical, creating memories that last for a lifetime. Unfortunately, traveling with children can be challenging too.
Your children may experience new places and new people while also trying novel things. Occasionally, this induces anxiety, which can complicate the adventure, especially if one or more of your children has ADHD, autism or other mental health concerns.
One powerful tool that is sensible for any parent to keep in their toolbox is mindfulness. This is the state of being conscious or aware of the present moment. It means not lamenting the past or worrying about the future. Instead, the focus is placed on the here and now.
Mindfulness helps to reduce stress and enhance feelings of contentment and happiness. Since stress frequently is a major component of travel, using mindfulness techniques is a simple yet brilliant solution. The great news is that mindfulness works for everyone, even children.
Mindfulness can help your children become more aware of their surroundings and discover new things. This can increase their wonder, amazement and love for travel.
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Mindfulness Exercises for Travel
Let’s examine mindfulness exercises you and your children can practice while on the road!
#1 Focusing on the Breath
Humans breathe automatically, without realizing how powerful the breath is. Focusing on your breathing is an excellent practice for centering and calming the mind and body. Your children may find it helpful to “feel” their breath by placing their hands on their chest or tummy. Counting breaths is another easy, effective exercise. This can be done by counting one on the inhale, two on the exhale, and up to 10 before beginning again at one.
#2 Guided Meditation
Anyone can meditate. It does not take an hour or even half an hour. All you need is 5 or 10 minutes. With the assistance of an app, you can find short, guided meditations that only last a few moments but can foster remarkable shifts in a child’s state of mind. Whenever you need to create feelings of peace and contentment, spend some quiet moments in guided meditation.
#3 Find a Sound
Turn off the radio and invite your kids to identify and focus on one sound. It could be a bird’s song, a person talking, the engine’s hum, or the water rushing along a river. How long can your child focus on that one sound? This exercise probably works best when your child is sitting or standing still, but it can be accomplished in a moving car with the windows rolled down. This can be an excellent practice for focusing attention and creating a sense of calm.
#4 Balloon Hands
For this exercise, ask your children to hold their hands out in front of their bodies, about at the level of the belly. Allow the fingertips of the hands to meet. As your child inhales, they bring their hands apart to expand like a balloon expands. As your child exhales, they bring their hands back together in front of their belly. Let them practice expanding and contracting the balloon several times for maximum relaxation.
This technique can be practiced before leaving for a family vacation or at any other point at which your child might begin experiencing some anxiety along the way. Many children find this practice enjoyable as it allows them to use their imagination while also soothing away some stress.
You can help your child throughout the visualization process, which can be essential if they are anxious about an entirely new situation. For instance, if your child has a fear of flying, you might lead him through a visualization exploring the sights, sounds, smells and feelings that are common at the airport or on the airplane.
Practicing the same visualization several times before the experience can ensure a much more positive and relaxing experience for the whole family.
#6 Stretching and Movement
No one likes to be confined to the small spaces in the car for hours on end. It can make even the best travelers anxious, stressed and restless. Try to plan for periodic stops for everyone to get out of the car to stretch and move.
You can lead the whole family in a round of stretching or just let everyone experiment with how it feels best to move their body at the moment. A rousing game of tag, jumping rope or hiking on a short trail are other ways to get rid of excess energy and restlessness.
Once everyone is back in the car, you’re probably set for a few more hours of driving. Some naps may even be in the future.
Experiencing new things as a family is very important. The problem is that traveling with kids is never easy, and when you’re also dealing with concerns such as anger management, autism and ADHD, those complications can multiply. The good news is that counseling can help. That way, you can simply focus on spending quality family time together and making new memories.
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.