Although it’s one of the greatest blessings in the world, parenting is tough and exhausting. You can read all the parenting manuals in the world, it still won’t make you the perfect parent. For this reason, more and more parents are turning to a relatively new concept of parenting called mindful parenting. Learn the best mindfulness tips for parents here, and you can build an even stronger, healthier and more compassionate relationship with your child!
Mindful parenting is about:
- Accepting imperfections, both your own and your child’s
- Learning to respond to a situation instead of reacting
- Truly listening to yourself and your child
- Being compassionate to yourself and your child
Mindful parenting means being present in your daily interactions with your children by paying attention to whatever is happening in that moment without judgment and with acceptance.
Easier said than done, you might think. However, if you consider all its benefits as well as the fact that it can only do you and your family good, you will probably be tempted to try it. Remember, mindful parenting is a process. On some days you’re good at it, on others not so much. Mindful parenting allows you to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made yesterday and start fresh the next day without self-blame or guilt.
Mindful Parenting has Many Positive Effects for Children
Did you know that the biggest cause of kids’ stress is their parents’ stress? This is why mindfulness for parents is so important.
Here is how mindfulness helps kids and the benefits they receive:
- Through their own behavior, parents teach kids how to emotionally regulate themselves. It is your behavior that models for them how to deal with everyday situations and problems in a calm and assertive way.
- When parents respond calmly to situations, children feel that everything is under control. This helps them feel safe. And children thrive in safe environments.
- It has been proven that the children of parents who engaged in mindful parenting were less prone to anxiety, depression and acting out.
- Children of parents who are good at self-regulation have better decision making skills, which is considered among the most important skills for living in the 21st century.
- Parents who practice mindfulness have more positive emotional exchanges with their children, and this was associated with lower risks of children’s drug use later in life.
Stop. Breathe. Observe. Proceed
The most important part of mindful parenting is learning to recognize when to stop, take a few breaths, observe your emotions and thoughts with curiosity and then proceed to respond to your child. You don’t bottle them up or make them bigger than they are. Just let them flow through you. So, next time your little ones push your buttons, rather than reacting to your emotions which are nothing more than sensations in your body anyway, and making the situation way worse, try this approach for a change. It will make a huge difference for your relationship with them.
Name It to Tame It
Any parent has faced a situation where they felt overwhelmed by emotions and instead of speaking calmly with their child, they lost it. They got angry and shouted at their kid and afterwards felt sorry for reacting the way they did.
It turns out that when we are dealing with strong emotions, the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, takes over. And then it becomes hard for us to think properly how to respond to a situation. We lose the ability to express ourselves with language because our emotions hijack us. However, if you identify and name exactly how you are feeling at that moment, a whole different part of your brain becomes in control – the executive part of the brain, which is in charge of higher-order cognitive functions such as planning, impulse control, predicting consequences of one’s actions and cognitive flexibility.
Describing How Your Feeling Calms Your Nervous System Down
So, next time the kids start making a mess, shouting and making a fuss, and you’re nowhere near getting them ready for school, just call it for what it is. Say to yourself, “This is a mess.” And do not say it in a judgmental or anxious way, but as neutrally as possible. If you notice you’re about to lose control, describe to yourself how you’re feeling, “I am angry.” This will calm the nervous system down and let the more advanced parts of your brain be in charge of how you respond to the situation.
Do One Thing at a Time
Most people nowadays take pride in their ability to multitask. However, when you do more things at once, you don’t really do any of them as well as you could or should. Switching between tasks is draining and stressful and is the exact opposite of what mindful parenting is about. When you are doing one thing at the time, you are saving your energy and your mental resources so that you don’t end up feeling exhausted before the end of the day.
Mindfulness for parents isn’t easy, and we can often become overwhelmed. Try doing things one at a time. When you are practicing mindful parenting, we do one task now, the next one after that, and the next one after that. You don’t think ahead too much because that only causes unnecessary stress and depletion. You are fully present with whatever is happening right now. This enables you to be more calm and to think clearly. If you are washing the dishes, that’s all that you are doing. If you catch your mind wandering off and worrying about what you’re supposed to do next, say to yourself mentally, or even out loud: “I am washing dishes. Washing dishes. Dishes. Washing.” And repeat this as many times as necessary until you stick with it.
Take time for self-care
If your inner resources are empty, it’s hard to be a wonderful giving parent because you have nothing to give. Recognize the moments when you feel depleted and run on empty and address them on time. Stop and think what it is that you need at that moment. Maybe you need to get out for a few minutes for some fresh air and some time off from your loved ones. Perhaps a shower will do you good. Maybe some television time is not a bad idea because it will give you all a chance to unwind. Expecting a trip to the Bahamas or an hour all to yourself might not be realistic, but do what you can with what you have.
With that said, studies have shown that happy people exhibit one characteristic that you could start practicing mindfully right now. It’s called savoring. In psychology, savoring is defined as the intention to focus on positive aspects of an experience — all the sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviors it includes. So, what is it about today that you are looking forward to? Maybe it’s that coffee in the morning, when none of your family members are awake yet. Whatever it is, think about this activity and look forward to it in advance.
Take a look at the Ways of Savoring Checklist and see what your typical reactions to positive experiences are – are you more prone to dampening or amplifying your savoring?
1. I focused on the future – on a time when this good event would be over.
2. I reminded myself that it would be over before I knew it.
3. I told myself how it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for.
4. I reminded myself that nothing lasts forever.
5. I thought about how things might never be this good again.
6. I reminded myself how transient this moment was – I thought about it ending.
7. I thought about ways in which it could have been better.
8. I told myself why I didn’t deserve this good thing.
1. I talked to another person about how good I felt.
2. I looked for other people to share it with.
3. I thought about what a lucky person I am that so many good things have happened to me.
4. I thought about sharing the memory of this later with other people.
5. I told myself why I deserved this good thing.
6. I jumped up and down, ran around or showed other physical expressions of energy.
7. I laughed or giggled.
8. I told myself how proud I was.
9. I reminded myself how lucky I was to have this good thing happen to me.
10. I screamed or made other verbal expressions of excitement.
11. I thought only about the present – got absorbed in the moment
If dampening is more your thing, could you move away from it and over to the other side of the scale instead?
Drop the Idea of Perfection and Practice Self-Compassion Instead
You are not perfect and neither is your child. The sooner you accept this, the less damage you will do to your child growing up. So, lower your expectations both for you and your littles ones. You will all feel less stressed, inadequate and frustrated in return.
Many parents struggle with a feeling of inadequacy. They think they’re not good enough. Mindful parenting is much about accepting your own imperfections. You are human after all. So, rather than feeling guilt, shame or low self-esteem, a much better alternative is to accept that you are doing the best you can and generate some compassion and kindness towards yourself. This will help you regulate your emotions better so that you are more calm and present for your children.
Parents tend to be bad at self-compassion because nobody taught us how to do it. Self-compassion is about realizing that being a parent is a learning process. If you did not get something right the first time, you’ll get it better next time. Just don’t beat yourself up over it.
Your example will lead your kids to practice self-compassion as well. By teaching them this, you will do them a huge favor in life. They will also have to deal with their own imperfections, so teach them on time how to do it. Do for them what your parents did not know how to do for you.
Walk a Mile in Your Child’s Shoes -Listen with Compassion
Just like you’re supposed to be compassionate to yourself, you need to practice this skill with your children too. Grown-ups tend to forget what it’s like being a child or a teenager and, consequently, end up applying their grownup labels to children’s behaviors. Truth be told, most adults haven’t really learned to regulate their own emotions and behaviors, yet they expect this from their children!
Listen to your child even when you disagree with their point of view. This will send them a message that they are valued and acknowledged. Think of yourself when you were younger. How many times did you feel misunderstood by your parents? I know I did. Do not repeat the same mistakes.
Most of all, listen to them from a place of love and compassion.
While you are listening to your child, identify how they are feeling. Your child is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Next time your child is throwing a tantrum, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how they are really feeling. They cannot find their toy, imagine how hard this must be for them. If they don’t want to eat the wonderful dinner you made, try and figure out why this is so. Think back to your own reactions when you had to do something you really didn’t want to.
And most of all, listen to them from a place of love and compassion. Granted, this will not always be easy. Mindful parenting is about noticing and accepting whatever it is that you are feeling, for example, “You are annoying me so much right now.” But most importantly, don’t react. Emotions come and go, just like everything else. Pause. Stop for a moment or two to cool down and try again.
Conclusion: Mindfulness for Parents is About Acceptance, Patience, and Calm
Mindful parenting is a beautiful approach that trains us to accept that things will never be perfect and that’s just how life works. Its most precious lesson is knowing when to stop. By learning to take a moment before responding to a situation, you will not have to deal with the consequences of overblown reactions afterwards. Mindful parenting helps you set a positive example for your children on how to be calm and accepting about life.
Tatjana Glogovac, Senior Contributor At L’Aquila Active
Tatjana is a writer and educator in mindfulness, emotional intelligence, learning, psychology and self-development. She is a certified yoga and meditation teacher. Her goal is to make yoga and meditation a practical daily tool for everyone looking to find some peace of mind and a healthy physical practice for their bodies. This especially goes for people struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, excessive worrying, overthinking, and other ailments of the modern man. You can join her online yoga and meditation classes on Vivaya.
*This article was originally published at L’Aquila Active and was reposted with full permissions.
You can read the original article here: “Mindfulness Tips for Parents. How to Do It. Why It Matters.”