Our attention is the most precious gift we can give to our children. Ha! Try maintaining your focus when your toddler cries hot tears because wearing socks is just so wrong. And you needed to be out of the house ten minutes ago.
Or when listening to another improvised ‘play’ involving a robot, dinosaur and three carrots. With a plotline as flat as a faulty cardiogram, who can blame your mind for wandering? Not us. But seriously, there’s a reason why we’re writing about mindful parenting. There’s a need for it.
Time after time
We’re spending more time with our children than previous generations. On average, mothers now spend 104 minutes on parenting each day (compared to 54 mins in 1965). Fathers spend an average of 59 minutes (up from 16 mins). It’s a lot, but many of us still feel guilty about quality time. Is that because we spend so much time in a frazzled frenzy of emotion? (Or on auto-pilot, glued to our phones?)
Mindfulness means awareness of the present moment. It offers an escape from spiralling thoughts. And it’s great for learning to regulate strong emotions. Like when you discover a new portrait – in permanent marker on your sitting room wall.
Mindful parenting isn’t about positive thinking or just trying harder though. It’s about applying mindfulness techniques to help you pay attention, react less and replenish your own reserves. Easy to say, but hard to achieve when you can’t even go to the bathroom on your own. Here’s how to get going:
STOP (in the name of love)
Step one: Stop. Unless a child is in physical danger, of course.
Step two: Take a deep breath. Or two.
Step three: Observe. Take stock of how you’re feeling, physically and emotionally. Look around and notice what’s going on.
Step four: Proceed. Hopefully, you’ll have gained a moment of calm. Use it to move forward with awareness.
Once you have
A little help from your friends
There’s a lot of good advice out there. Build your support network. Nap when your child naps. Take care of yourself. Multitasking is a myth. Good advice but tricky to pull off in practice.
Ego depletion is a concept in psychology that explains self-control as a limited resource. If you’ve ever lost your cool after a long and stressful day, you might agree. Meditation can feel like a selfish indulgence, especially when the housework is piling up. But finding time to recharge your batteries can save energy in the long run. And create a healthier atmosphere in your home.
Make time for regular mindfulness meditation. Make arrangements for the kids – or get them involved. If you’re after some inspiration, check out our free resource page.
Think back to when you found out you were expecting. What did you want to be like as a parent? While we’re hard-wired to want to do the best for our children, sometimes our own expectations cause us stress. And because our children are individuals, they may or may not live up to our wishes. Even in key areas like when it comes to wearing socks.
During your mindfulness practice, you’ll learn to let go of expectations. Instead, you observe what is – no judgement allowed. By releasing the weight of your own expectations, you’ll free up time and energy for your family life. And you’ll learn to be truly present during many cute and fun moments with your brood.
Mindfulness for kids
Mindful parenting isn’t just about the grownups. Exploring mindfulness with your children can help them become aware of their own emotions. And make tricky transitions (like morning and bedtime routines) easier to manage. Check out our blog for ideas.
There’s no doubt: parenting is a marathon. And mindfulness for mums and dads can help you make it to the finish line. (You may still need a long lie-down afterwards though.)
Practice being totally present with your kids.
When it gets down to it, mindful parenting is all about being present and focused with your children, to better understand their emotions and to give them your full attention. Yes, this may not be achievable for every minute we spend with our kids, so set aside 30-60 minutes each day for the following.
Set aside all distractions, put your phone on silent and turn of the TV.
Give your children your undivided attention. Whether you are colouring in, playing robots Vs carrots or having a fun game of tickles, be there fully. Try not to let your mind ponder what you will make for dinner or what tv series is on the cards for tonight. Be completely present and focused on the task at hand, which is to spend quality time with your kids.
Talk more! Talk about emotions, feelings, goals and aspirations with your kids.
What works for you? We’d love to know. Tell us in the comments below.