“Mindful parenting is the hardest job on the planet, but it’s also one that has the potential for the deepest kinds of satisfactions over the life span, and the greatest feelings of interconnectedness and community and belonging.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Being a more mindful person is something that I am constantly working towards, especially when it comes to parenting. It is so easy to get caught up in the go go go, onto the next activity, just going through the motions everyday, and children grow up way too damn fast to not try and enjoy every moment.
Being a mindful parent means becoming less attached to the outcome and just letting our children’s lives happen how they may. It means that we accept our children as they are and not how we want them to be. It means letting go of judgemental thoughts and becoming more open-hearted towards them. This is all in an effort to deepen the parent-child relationship and this connection is what grows happy and healthy children!
Giving our children the gift of our full presence is one of the most precious things we can do as a parent and there are some simple ways to do this. These are simple but still very challenging when one is in the everyday grind and muck of parenting.
1.Practice responding instead of reacting. Let’s be honest. Stuff happens and sometimes we, as parents, lose our cool. But if we can pause and take a breath to check in with ourselves and our emotions, we can learn to respond more mindfully. Our children are always watching, listening and learning from us, whether we are reacting mindlessly or responding mindfully.
“If we aren’t practicing mindfulness, we can’t teach it to our children” – Brene Brown
2.Establish a daily mindfulness practice. Sit in silence for a period of time everyday and simply focus on your breath. You can invite your children to join in but even if they don’t, they are watching you and will learn from your practice. Meditation is a powerful parenting tool that allows us to maintain a mind/body connection. This will definitely help with number 1 above as well.
3.Learn to deal with your own stress (in a healthy way). Children can totally sense our emotional state; they feel the tension when we are stressed and can take on our crap if we aren’t careful. Check in with your body regularly to see if you are holding onto any stress. Figure out what works for you in terms of stress management and use it! Yoga, meditation, cooking, walking in nature, reading, a hot bath, calling a good friend, playing a sport…..these are all great ways to cope with stress. When we are less stressed, we are better able to show up for our children in the present moment with no judgements.
4.Put down the phone/Ipad/T.V. remote… Technology is great, yes, but it is so important to set limits and be intentional with its use. In this day and age, we are always connected to some device and bombarded with information. It is so hard to be engaged in the moment when we are constantly checking Facebook. Just put it down. Everything will be there later. Kids can totally tell when we are not fully paying attention. And I know that you do not want your children’s memory of you to be of you looking at your phone.
5.Experience the world through your children’s eyes. Children experience this world in a completely different way than adults. Everything is a new and exciting opportunity to learn, express, have fun. Imagine if us boring adults felt the same way about building a fort or watching a line of ants marching. Children see everything as a miracle and the world would be a far better place if everyone could do the same.
6.Connect with your children at every opportunity. Walking to school, getting ready for bed, making dinner, doing homework are all perfect opportunities to check in with them.
7.Slow down. Stop over-scheduling and over-planning. Just go with the flow and take the time to just be with your kids. I have found that the best times of connection and fun are times when I’ve just followed my daughter’s lead and let her imagination take us wherever.
8.Express gratitude. At the end of each day, ask yourself and your children, “what are you grateful for today?” We do this while cuddling in bed every night during the bedtime routine. It is especially nice after hard or busy days when the connection may not have been as strong as it could have been.
Remember, mindful parenting is a lifelong practice and it takes practice. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and take lots of deep deep breaths. You got this!
Do you have any other tips that you find work for you? How do you choose to be more mindful with your kids?