How To Become A Mindful Parent
The Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique’. All to often, we wander around in a state of anxiety, preoccupied with concerns over what may or may not happen in the future, whilst also hanging on to the baggage of our pasts, and quite unsurprisingly, this is not good for our health, nor is it good for the health and mental wellbeing of our children.
As parents, we all try to do the best by our children and look to equip them with the skills and confidence that will carry them through to a happy and successful adulthood, and this is where mindful parenting techniques can be especially useful.
Mindful parenting encourages parents to become more self aware, to slow down, think and decide on a course of action, rather than allowing emotions to overwhelm and for home life to spiral out of control. Now, this all sounds easy enough, but what practical steps we can put into place to ensure that calmness prevails in everyday stressful situations?
Take A Moment Each Day
If you follow Melanie on social media, you may already know that she is a huge fan of mindful techniques and regularly uses the Headspace app, to make time to simply sit and be for a few minutes each day. The idea is that it is healthy to make time empty your mind each day, to concentrate on your breathing and to create a connection between between the mind and body, to be 100% present in that moment, free from the distractions and anxieties of everyday life.
Mindful meditation encourages us to accept our wondering mind, to acknowledge our thoughts, and gently guide our mind back to thinking in the present. By training ourselves to be present, we can more readily give our children our full attention, untainted by our reactions to stress.
For advice on how to practice meditation and how to explore your wondering mind, visit mindful.org.
The idea that creating a strong routine for your family fosters a calmer environment is nothing new, where there is a strong routine in place, children flow more easily through a safe and predictable pattern. Mindfulness encourages you to recognise stressors, to acknowledge and accept them, before breathing and taking action. So, if mornings before school are stressful, that’s fine, just acknowledge the stress, accept that it’s stressful, breathe and take action.
That action could take the form of mindful mornings, where you get up earlier to allow more time or encourage your children to pack their bags before bed, so that everything is organised ahead of time. Mindful techniques encourage a considered and measured response to stress, which promote a balanced and harmonious environment for our children, but also encourages us to accept imperfection, being a ‘good-enough’ parent, is just that.
Creating Mindful Boundaries
One of the main tenets of mindful parenting, is to recognise that a child and a parent are separate entities and that a healthy boundary should exist between a parent and a child, where a child is given the freedom to develop into their own person. This does not mean that a child should be allowed free reign, it simply suggests that it is healthy to provide parameters, within which children can develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility for their own lives. This sense of autonomy and enriched sense of responsibility can help our children develop a greater sense of self-esteem and enhanced decision making skills in the long term.
Ultimately, mindful parenting is about creating an environment of mutual respect in your family home, and giving your children the space and opportunity to develop into their own person, with the ability to think for themselves and manage stressful situations calmly. The most noteworthy and reassuring tenant of this way of thinking surely has to be the ‘don’t beat yourself up’ approach. It’s not about getting it right every time, it’s not about reaching some unachievable level of godliness through parenting, it’s about allowing yourself the time and space to find calmness and translating this into your everyday life.
For more information on raising a mindful family, click here.