Children often use play and not words as a means of communicating.
Mindful parenting is not about adding something to your routine but rather about consciously choosing what you pay attention to and what you don’t. Mindful parenting will help you connect with your children and partner because they will feel a greater connection to you. Best of all, it can help reduce your stress too.
In today’s society, most of us lead busy, stressful lives trying to balance our careers and personal lives. We are pulled in 100 directions. Our kids want to play with us. Our partners want to talk about their day’s joys and frustrations. Our work requires dependability and promptness with project deadlines. Emails call out to us through the buzz of our phone notifications. Our friends text us about hanging out. Bills lay in a pile begging to be opened. Home projects wait for us to get started. The newest episode of our favorite TV show are a couple of clicks away from us watching it. Dinner still needs to be cooked. Dishes washed. House cleaned. Kids fed. Dogs walked… You get the point.
I don’t need to be a psychologist to know that our brains are being pulled in too many directions. It’s not good for our health and it’s not good for our relationships. If you answer yes to the following questions, mindless stress is affecting you:
- Have you ever noticed that you are thinking about a business meeting while you’re taking a shower?
- Do you ever find yourself checking your email during dinner or while watching a movie?
- Have you ever been told by someone that they had to repeat themselves several times before you acknowledged them?
- Do you ever walk while staring down at your phone screen oblivious to the world around you?
- Are you ever lost in your own thoughts, worries, or ruminations while someone is talking to you?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else. That is OK. The beauty of mindfulness is the realization that we get to choose what we pay attention to with kindness rather than with criticism. Here are four mindfulness steps that I personally use and often recommend to my clients to help improve relationships:
- Just Be Present: At the core of mindfulness is the act of being in the present moment. That means that if you are eating dinner, choose to taste your food or reflect on how your child’s day went rather than tuning out as you watch tv during dinner. You can bring mindful awareness to any moment during your day by simply choosing to bring your awareness to the sensations (e.g., sounds, sight, smells, touch, tastes), thoughts, or feelings.
- Breathe: Breathing is not only vital to your life but can be used to increase or decrease energy levels. If you intentionally breathe deeply, you slow your heart rate and blood pressure which has the side effect of relaxing the mind and body. If you breathe quickly, it has the opposite effect. Parents are less reactive if they are relaxed and thus, when your child inevitably tells you something alarming, infuriating, or disappointing, you will be better equipped to respond in a non-critical manner.
- Be kind: The third step to mindful parenting is about not responding critically, judgmentally, or in any violent ways to others, especially your kids. Being mindful is about acknowledging any feelings that come up and consciously deciding how and with what to respond. Remember, if your child discloses they did something wrong and your response is criticism, they will be much less likely to share personal matters with you again in the future in fear that you may judge them again. Mindfulness is also about being kind to oneself (self-compassion), which allow us to be kind to others.
- Teach your Kids: Kids learn so much from their parents– “the good and the bad and the ugly.” So why not teach them mindful tricks? Parents who model mindfulness and opening talk about it are going to experience a deeper relationship with their partners and children. There are lots of activities that parents can do to promote mindfulness in their children such as having dinner and conversation with distractions such as TV turned off. Kristen Race, Ph.D., author of Mindful Parenting: Simple and Powerful Solutions for Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids in Today’s Hectic World offers lots of practical ideas in her book on how to cultivate mindfulness in children.
In summary, mindfulness is about choosing to pay attention in the present moment without judgement. The applications of this simple practice can have a profound impact in your relationships with your children and partner. If you are wanting to start your own mindfulness meditation practice get started with our free 10 easy steps to mindfulness meditation.
Question: What are some mindfulness tricks you incorporate into your family life?
My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.
Written by: Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Psychologist
Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture
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