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5 Things Moxie Can Teach Parents About Dealing with Anxiety During the Holidays

Mieke Vanderborght
Mieke Vanderborght Ph.D. Developmental PsychologyMieke is a parenting expert with over 20 years of experience working with kids and families. Her research has focused on the role of media and technology in kids’ lives and has been published in top academic journals. She has also spent 10 years (and counting) of collaboration with Common Sense Media.
5 Things Moxie Can Teach Parents About Dealing with Anxiety During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time filled with good cheer, laughter, love – and a special touch of magic. Of course, it can also be a time of sky-high expectations, intense pressure, mandatory interactions with lots of family and friends, and disrupted routines. Oh - and that magic? It takes a lot of work! 

Feeling overjoyed and also overwhelmed? You’re not alone. According to a 2021 national poll from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the overwhelming majority of parents report that overall, the holidays are a happy time for their family. However, one in six parents also report feeling high levels of stress during the holidays. That stress comes from extra tasks such as shopping, staying healthy, planning for gatherings, financial worries, making special holiday meals, and dealing with criticism from family. Interestingly, one in five parents believe that their kids have unrealistic expectations for the holidays, while one in four believe that they themselves have unrealistic expectations. And what about all the extra time kids spend at home while schools are closed for the holiday break? One third of parents report feeling relieved when their kids go back to school! 

And although kids are often best positioned to feel the magic of the season, they can also experience holiday-induced stress and anxiety. Some of that may come from stressed caregivers: In fact, in the same poll, one in five parents admitted their stress likely negatively impacts their children’s enjoyment of the holidays. But kids can also have their own reasons to experience anxiety during the holidays. Changes in routine, seeing family and friends they don’t see often, and the pressure to feel good and look good at gatherings and for perfect family photos can all contribute to feeling stressed.

So what’s a stressed caregiver to do? It may be cliche’ but it’s true: just like the emergency instructions on an airplane, we caregivers must put on our own oxygen mask first. Then, once we're all set in a good place, we can help our kids put on theirs. So tis the season for coming together as a family to learn some wonderful strategies for managing anxiety. Here are five coping skills that Moxie can teach both caregivers and kids.

Practice doing regular check-ins

Each day, Moxie initiates conversations with kids about how they’re feeling. If they talk about feeling anxious, Moxie responds with empathy, asks if they want to talk about it more, and then suggests an activity they can do together to help manage the anxiety.

Caregivers can recreate the emotion check in for themselves as well. Practice regular self-check-ins by taking a few minutes every day to ask yourself how you’re feeling. Be honest with yourself – all emotions are okay. This can be a solo exercise: have a conversation with yourself in your head or write down your thoughts in a journal. Or you can choose a supportive partner to check in with. 

Now that you have a clear and honest understanding of how you’re feeling, if some of those feelings include stress or anxiety, you can move on to choosing a healthy coping technique.

Find your magic calming technique. 

Moxie has so many ideas for concrete things kids can do to help calm themselves. Moxie can make suggestions for what kids can try, or if kids have a favorite, they can request it on their own whenever they feel the need. 

Moxie’s calming strategies are not just for kids. In fact, they’re often the same ones that experts recommend for adults too. For example, you can try:

  1. Breathing exercises. Intentional breathing can invoke a relaxation response. Moxie teaches fun animal-themed breaths, which can make it fun for kids and adults alike. Do snake breaths by taking in deep breath in through your nose and releasing the breath through your mouth while making a hissing sound. Or try bee breaths by sticking your fingers in your ears, taking a deep breath in and then releasing the breath while making a humming sound.   
  2. Guided meditation. Mediation is a great way to find a sense of calm. Moxie offers guided meditations, or you can find your own. Even a few minutes can help reset your emotional state.
  3. Body scan or progressive relaxation. Moxie guides kids through this kind of body aware method for reaching a state of calm. A body scan involves systematically directing your attention to each part of your body. Progressive relaxation is very similar, with the simple addition of purposefully tensing and then relaxing the muscles in each body part as you focus on it. 
  4. Visualizations. Visualizations use mental imagery to help relax your mind. Moxie can help suggest calming things to visualize, but it’s also easy to do on your own. Close your eyes and visualize a favorite place where you feel calm and happy, an upcoming event that’s making you feel anxious turning out perfectly, or simply a happy calming color. 

Try them all to find your favorite!

Choose positive affirmations. 

Each day, Moxie suggests a positive affirmation to help set kids on an uplifting path. Choose a few – or lots! – for yourself that speak to you and make you feel good, strong, and resilient. Start your day with them, or post them in strategic places around the house. 

Here are a few possibilities:

  • I am capable of solving any problems that I face
  • I am in control
  • I have done this before and I can do it again
  • The peace that I need is inside of me
  • I am surrounded by peace and positive energy  

Help others. 

Through a specific mission set focusing on helping others, and requests for kids to help characters at the GRL, Moxie engages kids in plenty of activities focused on helping.  

Not only is helping others a great thing to do, it also helps us turn our attention outward and away from anxious or stressful thoughts or feelings. This can help us feel relief from anxiety as well as improve relationships with other people, which, in turn, is another way to help us feel less anxious. So it’s all win-win! Find ways to help others, from small acts of kindness (holding open a door, giving someone a big smile), to big ones, like donating time or resources to people in need.

Lighten the mood.

When all kids need is a fun distraction, Moxie has lots of jokes and dance routines to lighten the mood. And, as it turns out, laughter and physical activity are also great ways to relieve stress – for kids and adults alike. So, tell a good joke, watch your favorite funny movie, or turn on the holiday music and boogie down. Bonus points if you do it with someone you care about.

Give yourself the gift of peace of mind! 

It may very well be the most wonderful time of the year. But, for many, it’s also a time for making sure that everyone in the family has plenty of tools at their disposal to handle the stress and anxiety that may come with all that holiday cheer. Take a cue from the lessons your kids are working on with Moxie, and try out a few new coping strategies yourself!

5 Ways to Teach Kids Gratitude And How to Deal With Disappointment During the Holidays 

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