Last weekend, we went skiing for the first time as a family. Not only was it fun, but I also found it immensely helpful for both of my kids - in very different ways.
-Conquering fears - One of my kids tends to be on the slightly more anxious side. She has always been a little reluctant to try new things and a little fearful of bad things happening. On the way up the chairlift for the first time, she was scared of falling. At the top of the mountain, she was terrified she would not make it down. There were a lot of "What if's!" We had some really useful discussions on our way down this first run - great for skiing and great for life!
-Being Gritty! -- This child is also a typical "gifted kid" - so many things naturally come easily to her that she sometimes gives up on things that are really hard. Skiing is hard for everyone at first! It was great for her to see how she could build on new skills over the course of just two days and know that with more work and practice, she could get better and better. This lesson applies to skiing, and to really anything new that we want to learn.
-Maintaining Focus - My other child can be a little unfocused at times. He has a really busy, inquisitive brain. It is a super thing about him, and can also pose challenges when he needs to do just one thing at a time (like getting dressed in the morning without chatting with his sister, getting immersed in a book, or looking at a beautiful sunrise out his bedroom window!). We were so proud of his focus on the slopes! He was 100% in the moment, attentive to making those big C's across the mountain, filtering out unimportant information (like the annoying snowboarders swooping around him). Since we returned home, we have been talking about how this focus led to success! All that attention made him ski beautifully and he also saw how enjoyable it can be to have your brain and body do just one thing at a time.
-Being in the moment - We must all be teaching out children about how to be in the moment. Skiing is a beautiful exercise in mindfulness. When you are actually skiing, you can become completely immersed in the swishing sound of your skis, the wind on your face, the beautiful scenery. We can re-create that experience when practicing mindfulness at home. Picture a beautiful mountain and imagine skiing down it at a relaxed, even pace. In your imagery, you can remove the annoying snowboarders and the whizzing five year olds (who make us adults really notice our aching knees!). Just you, a gorgeous spot, and the side to side rhythm of skiing. Try it and have your kids try it -- it's really good for your body and mind!
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.