Remember when you were a kid how fun it was to build a fort? I have had a fort in my living room since last weekend’s sleep over. “It’s so much fun, Mom! Can’t I just sleep in here one more night? Then I will move it, I promise!”, my nine-year-old daughter reassures me. And, even though my living room has been taken over by millions of stuffed animals and there is a sheet suspended from the banisters using headbands, scarves, hair ties, duct tape, and my brand new sheets as building materials, I have to admit it is cozy and relaxing. Since its construction, she sleeps there. She reads there. She creates art there. She relaxes there.
When kids, or adults too, are feeling stressed, often the mind is busy at work. It is working overtime and lots of thinking often doesn’t promote feelings of relaxation or peace. During times of stress our focus gets distracted and our energy is very scattered. It is useful to find ways to bring our focus inward and to call our energy back to ourselves. One way to accomplish this is by getting into smaller, enclosed spaces where the focus and energy are more easily contained. Indoor forts or caves can do just that. It is very relaxing to contain our energy in cozy, defined places.
So, I encourage you to construct your very own cave or fort for relaxing. As you head into the holiday season this year, find a cozy space in your house and construct your relaxation cave. Put it on your holiday “to do” list to design some stress-free spaces in your home specifically for relaxation. Purposefully design your relaxation space with close quarters so that you amplify the cozy factor. It can be as easy or complex as you and your child decide to make it. Simple includes throwing a blanket over a table. Complex requires some additional architectural trial and error. Both can be very rewarding.
Once you have your relaxation cave built, put some fluffy pillows, stuffed animals, soft blankets inside. Hang some pretty stars from the top and lie down on your back with your child and just breathe. Do some simple counting breaths where you count to five on the inhale and count to five on the exhale. Set aside some moments to just breathe and let the world outside the cave simply pass on by for a few minutes. Melt into the blankets. Let go. Fully surrender into the moment and allow yourself to pay attention to the feelings that arise while you are simply lying there. It can serve as your “do nothing” space or it can serve as your space where you only practice relaxing activities. Read gentle stories with sweet themes. Tell a bedtime story, but make sure that the theme is gentle and soothing. Designate it as a place where only soft voices, whispers or silence can visit. Do some gentle stretches such as child’s pose (http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/475), or butterfly pose (http://www.americanyogaacademy.com/PDFs/ButterflyPose.pdf).
So, after you have established your relaxation cave, practice using it when tension arrives. When you see your child struggling to manage her energy or feeling visibly tense, suggest a little cave time and crawl in along side her.
Let your imagination run wild in the creation of your family cave. If you are looking for some additional ideas, here’s a site I found that has stellar ideas: