Five Ways In Which Mindfulness Practice Can Help Your Parenting Journey
If I had my way, I would insist that every couple who shows up for their first baby ultrasound be enrolled for a lifelong mindful parenting class. It’s never too early to get started and a decision I am sure no parent including me would regret. As new parents, we are thrown headlong into the world of parenting, overwhelmed with information downloads and good intentioned advice. We get told how to be good (perfect?) parents. How to sanitize our babies’ bottles and how to gently wash their bottoms. How to load them up on nutritious foods and stimulate their cognitive functions when they hit their first week on Earth. And yet, the one regret most parents seem to have as they become empty-nesters is to have walked through their parenting years in a blur…almost sleep walking through the process.
Mindful parenting is an invitation to bring ourselves to enjoy the present moment and to give our children the gift of our authentic selves...imperfections and all! Metaphorically, we can only give what is truly ours to give and for that reason, incorporating mindfulness practices into our daily routine should be on every parent’s agenda. Much like giving baby a daily bath, it’s essential practice!
Far from just being an esoteric doctrine, a large body of empirical research now backs up the application of mindfulness tools to parenting practices. Here are five specific ways in which these practices are especially helpful to us as parents:-
1. Self-Compassion: As parents, we are bound to face moments of disillusionment, stress and frustration along our journey. Role modelling self-compassion and the ability to accept feelings of guilt and failure will teach our children life lessons in self-worth and self-preservation that are embedded in their psyche. As we accept ourselves for who we are, our children imbibe the values of self-acceptance and unconditional compassion.
2. Self-awareness: If we are unaware of our own deepest unmet needs, we run the risk of getting mindlessly caught in reactive parenting patterns. As you become more and more aware of your own deepest needs through mindfulness practice, you will find within yourself the capacity to respond to your child’s deeper needs rather than unwanted behaviours. Awareness and subsequent control of your own intense emotions will enable you to teach your child emotional regulations skills that no parenting manual or 1-2-3 magic can teach.
3. Self-care: Informal and formal mindfulness practices necessarily incorporate self-care into our daily routine. Today’s parent is so inundated with distractions, work pressures and demands of everyday living, that our minds are driven constantly into frenzied activity. Mindfulness practice requires you to simply sit in silence observing your breath or the natural sensations of your body, for a specified amount of time. Over time, this heightened awareness enables one to accomplish more, simply by giving the task at hand our full and complete attention.
4. Stress management: As the mind body connections are established through mindfulness practice, it becomes increasingly possible to notice even slight changes in the homeostasis of our body. This enables us to pause and take the necessary steps to calm down, before our responses get out of control, resulting in faulty interactions. Parenting is a humbling experience and you will often find yourself in situations where the “busy”ness of living takes precedence over your parenting goals. Managing stress effectively in these situations may prevent damaging patterns of communication between you and your child.
5. Enjoying the moment: Our over scheduled, frenzied lifestyles leave us drained and in a constant state of stress. Moreover, we often find ourselves striving too hard to meet the standards of perfect parent, perfect spouse and perfect employee. All this striving for perfection leaves us little or no energy to be fully present in the moment. The most precious gift we can give our precious bundles of joy, is being present in the moment. Mindfulness will teach how to truly listen as your child recites his poem, feel the softness of your infant’s skin and fully experience the emotions that gush forth from your heart as you kiss your teen goodnight.
Navigating the ups and downs of parenting is a daily challenge. Why not explore if mindfulness can help ease the process?
Happy mindful parenting!
Author INRODUCTION: Audrey Dsouza is a mama on a mission. She holds an M.Sc. in Counselling & Psychotherapy, advanced degrees in Family Therapy & Clinical Hypnotherapy and has been practicing mindfulness since she was a teen. She uses mindfulness most when she is parenting her own two teens ?. For individual coaching sessions or to join her free webinars on mindful parenting, please write to her at [email protected]