There are few things that go together better than Hygge and Christmas. And to truly enjoy this season, I find it difficult to do it any other way. At the heart of Hygge is providing a safe, warm and inviting atmosphere, enjoying life’s simple pleasures and being present. So how do we do that with kids and during such a typically bustling season? I’ve laid out my 5 best practices for making this happen.
One: Ground Yourself
You need to be centered and regulated, and have your needs met for you to be able to show up in the best way for your kids. This means, you need to take care of decreasing your stresses, eating and sleeping well, setting and maintaining your boundaries and making sure you are in an ideal headspace. I recognize this feels like a lot of pressure and one more thing placed on your shoulders that you need to take care of. But in all honesty, this should be your main priority. Because when you’re regulated and calm and in a good space, so much of the other stuff either naturally falls away because you’ve reprioritized or you’re in a much better place to handle all of the other things going on. So invest the energy you have into bringing yourself peace, nourishing your body and mind, and you’ll feel much more equipped to handle the season. And the truth is, when adults are dysregulated and stressed, kids are the ones who suffer most. Children are the ones who feel the reverberations of our dysregulation. And what do we really want from this season? For the most part, we hear parents say they’re doing all this for their kids. They want them to have these beautiful memories. So let’s increase the likelihood of that happening by sorting ourselves out first. Because what will children take away from this holiday? They might remember gifts and decorations, they might remember movie nights and other traditions, but they’ll certainly remember most is how they felt. How they were spoken to. How safe they felt. How stressful their environment was. How regulated their safe and trusted adults were. All of that has nothing to do with with anything tangible and everything to do with how we are showing up for them.
Two: Respect consent
There’s a lot going on during the Holidays, which means that children are often already in lots of changing and unfamiliar situations. Maybe there’s travel, maybe lots of relatives and new faces. Sleep and eating patterns might be thrown off. There is probably a lot that our kids are being forced to do and see and visit. This means our kids are most likely already slightly on edge. One crucial way we can show up for them, protect their autonomy and safeguard their wellbeing is by respecting their consent, particularly with physical affection. Never force affection on children. Hygge is about environments being safe, warm and inviting. One surefire way to threaten that is by sending our children the message that they are not in control over their own bodies and that they need to do things they feel uncomfortable with even if they don’t want to. With relatives they don’t know. Even with close relatives they do know. Even with you. In these scenarios, the lessons they learn about trusting their own bodies, having a right to their own boundaries and who is willing to protect their wellbeing have far greater impact than whether someone gets upset about not getting a forced hug from a child. This principle can extend to more than just physical affection. We can respect our children’s consent about so many things surrounding the holidays. What do they actually want to do? Where do they actually want to go? Involving them in more of the plans is one way to make everything more enjoyable, but it also sends them a beautiful message that you’re considering them and their feelings during this time.
Three: Embrace Less
We just finished watching the newest Grinch movie with Benedict Cumberbatch where he receives a flyer that says Christmas is going to be 3 times bigger this year. Without being proactive about keeping things minimal, I find it really easy and convenient to let things get out of hand. From decor to parties, from gifts to activities, there is no shortage of ways to make things bigger and busier. And let me be clear that there are endless WONDERFUL things out there. There are so many eco-friendly gifts, sustainable wrapping methods, heartwarming traditions, minimal and natural decorations, baking tutorials, thrifted finds, and so on. Even if you remove all of the landfill options, the obligatory parties we don’t actually want to attend, all of the unnecessary parts of the holidays, there is still a never-ending amount of positive things we can implement into our lives. And therein lies the constant need for boundaries and keeping that healthy balance. Your health is your greatest asset and literally the only thing that matters. Because if you don’t have your health, very little else matters. And I mean every type of health. Physical, mental, emotional. The holistic health that makes up every part of who we are. And a major part of protecting our health is being able to establish our comfort zones and safeguard them. By that I mean keeping our lives comfortable. Giving ourselves lots of time to feel at ease. Not filling every minute with productivity. Not filling every square inch of our lives with things and activities and people and places. Adapting a less is more mindset. Less spending means more financial stability. Less parties means more down time. Less to dos on our list means more time to just enjoy this time with our kids. The question I always ask myself is, “Is this thing/tradition/party/etc adding to everyone’s comfort, joy and wellbeing over the holidays or is taking away from it?” It’s like the lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, “Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy”. Does it bring us Comfort and does it bring us Joy? That’s my barometer. And even if it does, it is taking away from something else we prefer? We only have so much time, so much energy, so many resources. And everything comes at a cost. Which means, if I’m choosing to focus my attention in this area, it necessarily means it’s coming from somewhere else. Enter the absolutely necessary practice of being intentional. With our time, our money, our relationships, our purchases, our choices. And I’ve never been able to do this if I’m not living slowly. Taking the time to think things through, making choices with a clear mind, and truly being thoughtful about why and how I’m choosing to do certain things.
Four: Spend time outside
I know most of us dream of cozying up by the fire and enjoying our indoor decorations, watching movies and building gingerbread houses during Christmas. But one of the most powerful ways I know to regulate myself and my kids is to spend time in nature. It’s grounding and slow and quiet. It’s away from noise, and screens, and shopping and cleaning and every other distraction. Prepare well with proper gear, warm insulated drinks, and have a warm and cozy place to come back to. Daily time in nature is one of my most impactful parenting methods. Not just for my kids, but for myself as well. I’ve never regretted spending time outdoors. Visit a well-loved summer spot and see what has changed over the Winter. Play I Spy or create a makeshift scavenger hunt. Close your eyes and talk about what you hear and what you feel. Or better yet, just let the kids lead and discover and just be a silent observer. Collect nature pieces and make it a part of your Holiday decor. Use items to make stovetop potpourri, make nature-based centerpieces, garlands or ornaments. Or keep it simple and just walk or sit and enjoy a beautiful view.
Five: Set the Scene
Hygge is about comfort and simple pleasures. Roaring fires, wool socks and cozy pajamas, candles and warm glows of dim lit rooms, snuggly blankets and reading books on the couch, lazy mornings in bed. All of these things set the tone for slow days and more peaceful moments. Slowing everything down means we have time for baking together. We have time for simmering soups. We have time for full well-rounded meals together around the table. It means less rushing around and skipping meals, or rushed snacks that don’t fill us up. A big part of Hygge is indulging in slow comfort food. It means hearty and homemade. It means filling our bodies with food that makes us feel good. Setting the scene means making intentional decisions about our lives, from the lighting and aromas in our home (see my perfect Christmas simmer pot recipe here!), to the clothing we wear, to the food we eat. I also included this one last because it’s the least impactful. Meaning, you could have set the entire scene, bought the coziest blankets, wear the snuggliest pajamas, have a stew cooking and candles burning, but if the feelings in your home and in your company aren’t warm and inviting, none of that is going to matter. If the tone in your voice is harsh, if the relationships between the people you’ve brought into your home are toxic, if the vibe in the room is tense and stressful, nothing else will overpower that. As I have learned, you cannot buy Hygge. Set the home however you please, but real Hygge, real comfort, comes from feelings, from relationships, from the energy of the people in the room. How we talk to each other. How we protect each other. How we create warm and inviting figurative space for each other. Everything tangible is frosting on the cake.
This season can be a beautiful time spent making memories and surrounded by loved ones. It can also be overwhelming and rushed and feel like you haven’t had a quiet moment to enjoy it. Hygge is about spending intimate time with the people we love. It is about being present and enjoying what’s here in front of us right now. It’s about being connected to what’s around us, from nature to people. It’s about feeling safe and happy and comfortable. Literally and figuratively. So how are we showing up for ourselves to create a safe, happy and comfortable space and how are we doing that for our kids? Outside of gifts, outside of decorations, outside of traditions. It all comes down to how we feel and what feelings we are passing down to our children. So focus on that, and everything else will fall into place where it needs to be.
Have a lovely Hygge Christmas,
I’d love to hear how you incorporate Hygge into your home during the Holidays! Comment below if you have found this to be helpful for you and your kids!