Three positive benefits of mindful parenting
GUEST POST - From the lovely Sam of Breaking Waves Mindfulness
Mindful parenting means being perfect doesn’t it?
Actually no. I could say that mindfulness will make you calmer and enjoy more of your time with your children (which would be true for many), but it’s not as clear cut as that.
Mindfulness is really about being present in the moment, without judgement (I’m paraphrasing Jon Kabat-Zinn here). The skills and practices involved in mindfulness are excellent tools for helping you to transform the sometimes difficult world of parenting into one that flows more easily.
But how does it do this?
It helps to meet everyone’s needs
We all know the old adage ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. Babies, young children and even older children demand your attention at an intensity you’ve probably never experienced before. I know I often feel like my brain is worn out by lunchtime and this state of vigilance can lead to us feeling mentally exhausted. Meditation is one of the ways in which we practice the skill of mindfulness and the act of meditation itself can be a brilliant way to take time and space to give your brain a rest.
When we become more mindful generally however, we also start to notice and respond when we realise we’re running on empty. We can plan in time to make sure that everyone’s needs in the family are met. That might look like getting up early to meditate, getting a babysitter so you can have a night out or having an hour to yourself at the weekend to drink coffee in a café alone. Taking care of yourself can feel selfish to some, but it’s actually an act of compassion that will benefit the whole family. I know when I start to get easily irritated and snappy that I’m out of balance and need to take care of myself, so I can continue to take care of everyone else with compassion too.
“It’s not me first, it’s me as well.” – Suzy Reading author of The Self-Care Revolution
It teaches emotional regulation
Mindfulness teaches us to observe our emotions as they rise and fall and to respond skilfully, rather than reacting in haste. We’ve all had that moment where we regret shouting at our child because we know there would have been a more useful tactic to use instead. Mindfulness creates more space between feeling that emotion and reacting so we have a choice about what to do next. This is emotional regulation – feeling an emotion and choosing how we should respond to that emotion in a healthy way. When we model this more mindful way of responding to big emotions, we help our children to regulate their emotions as well.
You can read more about how to stay calm when you’re angry with your child in this related post.
It connects us
Mindfulness helps us to connect as a family in many ways. When we’re ‘in the moment’ with our children, we’re not distracted. Children love to feel noticed and giving them our full attention makes them feel loved and more likely to listen to our requests than if they feel disconnected.
It also means that we notice and observe things about their behaviour that we might not if we weren’t paying attention. For instance, we may notice that they’re getting angry and be able to intervene before they lash out or swipe the plates off the table.
So, mindful parenting is really about paying attention to our children and to ourselves.
Observing behaviour, emotions and thoughts without judgement.
Holding them gently with our breath whilst we choose what to do next.
Making wise choices in line with our parenting intentions, whatever they may be.