Do any of these scenarios sound like a morning in your house?
Scrambling to get the kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door for school on time
Running late because your four-year-old won’t get dressed fast enough, or worse, decides to pick out his/her own outfit
Exhausted because you stayed up late getting work done and still feel constantly overwhelmed by the workweek and still can’t “catch up” on the weekends
I can promise you at least one of the above situations applies to most parents. All of those scenarios scream “STRESS!” to me, and we have so much data showing us that stressed or anxious parents make for stressed or anxious children. In fact, studies show that even if the parent of an anxious child undergoes therapy, the child’s anxiety lessens! So part of being a good parent means learning to manage your own stress, and mindful parenting can help with that.
Last week, we discussed what is mindfulness and mindful parenting, the benefits, and its importance in life. This week let’s talk about how to incorporate that. Mindfulness is very different than a 30-minute mediation. You can be mindful while washing dishes or even folding laundry. Mindfulness is being full engaged and not distracted by other items. As a busy mom, mindfulness can be difficult to hone in and that’s why I suggest starting small.
First off, end the perfectionism. Parents are a role model for children and if you feel like your emotions run hyper frequently from stress, then mindful parenting can really help. There’s actually data to show that self-regulating emotions to stay calm when your children are driving you to the edge can actually lead to positive changes in the brain, rather than going down the path of anxiety or anger. Our first responsibility as parents is to be mindful of our own inner state, particularly during challenges. You’re allowed to feel anger, but mindfulness is the opposite of losing your temper or blowing a fuse as the parent.
Secondly, practice gratitude. It will help you create a safe environment. Within a safe environment, parents and children share more trust. If you find your anger building to the point of losing your temper, walk out of the room or turn around and take a deep breath. Recollect yourself with a statement of gratitude (I’m so lucky my child has the hand eye coordination to hold a crayon and draw”) and then walk back in ready to calmly say that while the wall drawings are beautiful, the crayon must be washed off the walls.
This next tip is one of my personal favorites. Disconnect to connect. To create valuable moments of connection daily, you must take initiative. Those precious cuddles before bedtime, reading your child’s favorite book, talking a walk together outside... Don’t allow those moments to be divided by checking emails, texting, or social media. Disconnect from technology to full appreciate the present moment with your child. You will not only appreciate your time together more but also realize being fully engaged is actually refreshing.
I gave a few examples above that pertain to young children, but research shows that mindful parenting, especially when parenting a teen, can make a big difference with regards to risk behaviors. Parents who demonstrated mindful parenting had less negative emotion and more shared positive emotion with teenage children and that shared positive emotion was associated with a decrease in depression, anxiety, and drug use in teenage children.
Mindful parenting teaches us communication rather than a reaction. What we know is our children tend to mirror our behaviors. Stress is contagious. Anxiety is palpable. Anger is loud. As a role model, being mindful in the way you communicate with your child can demonstrate what is appropriate behavior.