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4 Steps to Mindful Parenting that Will Change Your Relationship With Your Kids

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.

Family DinnerIn 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

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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Psychological Hygiene: Here’s what the doctor ordered…

The last time you went to the dentist and she reminded you to floss more regularly, maybe you nodded or giggled nervously, but certainly you didn’t walk out of her office thinking, “What a ridiculous suggestion!” You accepted it as a reasonable recommendation. And when you told yourself, “Self, it’s time to take better care of your teeth,” I doubt that your next thought was, “Gee, I’m so selfish and overindulgent.” Perhaps it’s because an expert told you to do it or perhaps it’s because it’s widely accepted in our culture that flossing is part of a solid oral hygiene routine, but for whatever reason you knew it was the right thing to do.

I’m making no judgments about whether you kept up your oral hygiene commitment. I am, however, making a judgment about our society’s lack of attention to the importance of psychological hygiene– the things that we do (or should be doing) on a regular basis to maintain good mental health. As a society, we seem to be a bit slower to jump on that bandwagon though there are some pretty clear reasons why to pursue it further. Intrigued? Good.

6 things to pay attention to right now for better psychological hygiene:

  • Mindfulness. This is about being in the present moment– the right now– with intention and without judgment. With the fast-paced chaos many of us currently live in, a mindfulness practice is becoming more important than ever. Greater Good in Action and Mindful.org are two great resources for lots of easy activities.
  • Exercise. Admittedly, most of us probably know that exercise is important to our wellbeing, but not everyone knows about all of the psychological benefits. Specifically, that exercise is also effective at treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.  Pair up exercise with mindfulness and you’ve got an especially winning combination that recent research suggests can ward off and greatly relieve depressive symptoms.
  • Sleep. Unhealthy sleep patterns may increase the risk of mental illness and lead to problems with emotional regulation, memory,  and immune functioning. Some great resources for helping a child sleep include the American Academy of Pediatric’s sleep tips as well as our very own handout on getting a good night’s rest.
  • Nutrition. For so many reasons, good nutrition is important to our overall health and we are learning more and more about this every day. It’s far too complicated to get into a detailed analysis of all of the ways that nutrition link to emotional wellbeing, but I’ll offer a few examples. Perhaps most intuitive is the fact that sugar affects mood and may even be contributing to depression and anxiety. We also now know that gut health is directly linked to emotional health. There are also many things that are being added to food and coming into contact with items we ingest (such as the teflon on our pans) that are considered toxins for the brain, particularly in children and have been linked to a variety of behavioral and emotional health problems such as aggression, ADHD, Autism, and other neurodevelopmental issues.
  • Social Support. Hands down, social support is the most important buffering factor in times of stress, adversity and trauma. There are a series of fantastic long-term studies on this topic, which suggest that, for a child, the perception of having at least one invested adult is a significant protective factor.
  • Play. Well, of course! In this wildly hectic world, adults and children alike are becoming workaholics and achievement addicts. It’s not that we can’t get enjoyment from work or school, but certainly a healthy balance is necessary. With the positive psychology movement, we’ve now learned about the importance of awe and the concept of flow, which are sometimes nice benefits of play.

Did you know that first aid for mental health also exists? Yup. It’s a real thing. It’s what you should do if you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis or a metaphorical emotional bruise, scrape or cut. I’d encourage you to read about it also.

Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

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: Brandy Baker, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by Yann (talk) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7866365

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