Typically, I am all ready for bed (after a challenging bedtime with toddler followed by this week’s Game of Thrones) when the inspiration to write this post hits me in the face like a sledgehammer. Or that might be the coffee I just drank; either way I want to talk about Mindful parenting.
Please note, these are my own ideas and opinions based on my own studies and practices of mindfulness and it’s all part of my overall journey.
It has been noted, and also researched in peer-reviewed journals about the benefits of practicing Mindfulness as an individual. However, personally, I haven’t yet come across anything specific relating to parenting and a mindful relationship between parent and child. It’s very easy to assume, from the outside, how actively practicing mindfulness with your child has benefits to both the parent and child. Some of which may include (but not limited to);
Patience, compassion, understanding, tolerance, awareness, shared experience, learning
Now I am not saying you can’t have these without Mindfulness, that would be silly. I like to think I had several of these qualities already thank you very much…but mindfulness can certainly (and does) help with honing them in is particular situation and to be more aware of them. I find with my 3 year old my emotions and thoughts definitely have an effect on how we interact. For example, I can feel myself get wound up and frustrated and notice the manifestson of that in my behaviour when he refuses to do as I have asked. Or go to bed. Or isn’t very kind to his little brother.
A more Mindful way of dealing with it would be to perhaps focus on my breath, make myself aware of what is happening as an observer and accept his behaviour.I don’t have to like it, just accept it without judgement. Ideally this would lead me to calmly respond rather than react. Is there a cue of his I am missing? Do I literally need to sit calmly and quietly with him, for however long it takes, until he calms down?
I thought of some other aspects of parenting and how I could implement Mindfulness for the benefit of my relationship with my children and the benefit of…well…practicing mindfulness!
When giving my child a cuddle, take in everything about it! How they smell, what their body feels against mine, how relaxed we both feel, listen to their breath or any other sound they make, and if possible view their face and how they snuggle into me. Make nothing else in those moments as important as that cuddle.
Mindful eating is one of the first exercises I undertook on my mindfulness course last year. The idea is to notice the physical appearance, smell, texture and taste of the food as of you have never experienced it before. Chew each mouthful carefully and really taste the food. You can use simple language to talk about these themes with small children; colours, textures, flavours etc. Mine are too small to understand the concept of mindful eating but by drawing attention to these details it serves as a reminder to me and hopefully piques their interest and attention!
I touched on this earlier when talking about toddler at bedtime but it applies to all unacctable/undesirable behaviour; respond rather than react! If you are feeling cross and fed up (inevitable) make a conscious effort to focus on the breath and become a watchman of your negative emotions. Keep breathing and know this will pass; meanwhile pay attention to what is happening in the moment and if there are any cues or clues which will help when not led by emotions that will calm the situation. At the very least, projecting calm will help you and them! I appreciate at this stage it’s very easy to say and hard to do but that’s where the practice has to come in.
So these are just a few ideas, a drop in what I could see being a vast ocean. I believe if I can more actively practice being mindful with and around the children, my behaviour will have a positive influence on them and their future conduct. I don’t plan on forcing them to sit quietly and meditate (yet!) but at least lead by example. From tomorrow I aim to practice what I preach. As I also work with children this provides ample opportunity to practice!
Good luck any fellow parents who wish to join me on this adventure 🙂