Parenting is a demanding and rewarding job that requires a lot of time, energy and attention. In the hustle and bustle of daily life it can be challenging to stay present and engaged with your kids. There's always plenty of tasks to get done or catch up on and so it's easy to fall into a habit of constantly doing this or juggling that and living on autopilot.
Being more present in our relationships and with our children doesn't have to take up a lot of time. In fact making up for quality time is way more important that physical time which fosters a deeper connection with your child(ren) and creates a more peaceful and fulfilling family life.
In today's blog, we'll explore what mindful parenting is, the benefits of practicing it, a model and further research to help us deepen our understanding of the longer term benefits and some practical tips for staying present with your kids.
Parenting with Presence
Mindful parenting is the practice of being fully present and engaged with your children without judgment or distraction. It involves tuning into your own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of your child and responding in a calm and compassionate way.
It's not about being a perfect parent or having all the answers. It's about cultivating a deeper awareness of yourself and your child and creating a more authentic and loving relationship.
Benefits of Parenting with Presence
The benefits of mindful parenting are numerous and significant. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve emotional regulation and increase overall wellbeing. Additionally mindful parenting can improve communication and reduce conflict between parents and children. It can also enhance the bond between parent and child and improve the child's emotional and behavioural development.
This paper in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review titled 'A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research' Duncan, L. G., Coatsworth, J. D., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009) introduces a model of “mindful parenting” as a framework whereby parents intentionally bring moment-to-moment awareness to the parent–child relationship. The model provides examples of how mindful parenting and mindful parenting interventions may be beneficial for parent–child relationships during a child’s transition to adolescence.
If that all seems a bit daunting right now to undertake in the midst of just trying to cope with school runs, cooking, organising your home, working and parenting etc etc. Embarking on an eight week mindfulness-based living course can help immensely to bring in a new fresh perspective and approach to nurture a tired, stressed or overwhelmed self and create more balance for family, relationships and life in general.
Change requires a willingness and intention to try new things and make them a habit to reap the rewards and boost energy levels later on. As humans we have a tendency to want a magic wand or shortcut to achieve the improvements we desire in our life but real long term change requires a new way of seeing and being one day at a time.
Mindfulness offers a method of attentional training that enhances our brain processes and changes the brain's physiology which can be observed using EEG ( electroencephalography). Practising mindfulness can improve your brain's ability to direct your attention and accurately perceive the world. According to Dr. Andrew E. Budson the chief of cognitive & behavioral neurology at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, lecturer in neurology at Harvard Medical School and chair of the Science of Learning Innovation Group at the Harvard Medical School Academy mindfulness can literally change your mind, your brain and your IQ.
Meantime here are some practical tips for incorporating mindfulness into your everyday experience;
Tips for Staying Present with Your Kids
Be Fully Present - when you're spending time with your child, try to be fully present and engaged in the moment. Put away distractions like your phone or computer, forget about the to-do list, it will still be there when you’re ready to focus on it. For now focus on your child's needs and feelings and give them the gift of your full conscious presence.
Listen with Compassion - when your child is talking to you, practice active mindful listening as best you can by giving your full attention and responding with compassion. Try to put yourself in your child's shoes and understand their perspective.
Practice Self-Compassion - parenting can be challenging so it's important to be kind and compassionate to yourself as well as your child. Take time for self-care and self-reflection, and don't beat yourself up over mistakes or setbacks. Your human after all, mistakes and setbacks are there to help us reflect, develop new skills and grow.
Use Mindful Discipline - when disciplining your child, try to do so in a calm and compassionate way. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements and focus on problem-solving rather than punishment.
Cultivate Gratitude - take time each day to appreciate the good moments and express gratitude for your child and your family. This can help you stay positive and focused on the present moment.
Integrating mindfulness into your parenting practice may take some time and effort but the benefits are well worth it. By staying present and engaged with your children you can cultivate a deeper connection and create a more peaceful and fulfilling family life for them as much as for you.
Practising mindful parenting isn’t always easy, it requires taking a pause and responding as opposed to reacting. By staying present and engaged with your child, listening with compassion, practicing self-care using mindful discipline and cultivating gratitude, you can enhance your child's emotional and behavioural development, reduce conflict and increase overall wellbeing. That can come in very handy when your child moves into adolescence.
Why not give it a try this week and notice with curiosity how mindful parenting can benefit you and your family?