What is mindfulness in parenting and can it help me?

Mindfulness in parenting can reduce stress and help parents enjoy time with their children.

When working Monday to Friday the thought of spending two days with your children can feel like a chore rather than an enjoyable two days off work. Children throw challenges at their parents and parents often struggle to enjoy the time spent with their children. You have two days to fill, trying to keep your children amused and entertained whilst trying not to spend a small fortune, get angry, frustrated and fed up.

This is not meant to be negative, having kids is great and anyone with children is very fortunate, it is just a fact of life. Parenting can be very hard work.

Mindful parenting introduces mindfulness into parenting and when we practice this we bring ourselves into the present rather than dwelling on the past and the future. This may be thinking about the times when we would spend the weekend in the pub or imagining a future when our children have left home. Research has found that being in the present and practicing mindfulness at home can relieve stress, anxiety and depression in parents. It can also assist in building better relationships between parents and their children.

How to be a mindful parent

Imagine getting home from work, you prepare and cook dinner, going over the kids home work whilst tidying up and then you get your children ready for bed. Whilst carrying out these tasks, In your mind all you can think about is having a few hours sat on the sofa before you go to bed. The evening flies by, you go to bed and then get up and start the whole process all over again. The key to this maybe, rather than multi tasking you may want to pay attention to each task individually.

So start by sitting down with your child and go over their homework whilst paying attention to them, what they say and their understanding. Take time to help them rather than looking at the homework assistance as a chore. Once the homework is done then concentrate on cooking dinner and enjoy making a meal for the family. Do not rush through the process but take in what you are doing, the smell and the taste, enjoy giving your family the nutritious, healthy meals the require.

When reading a book for your children before bed try to read a book that grabs everyones attention including your own. Books by David Walliams or Tom Fletcher are well written and include fantastic characters and a great story. Children enjoy each chapter and they are easy for a parent to read and enjoy. Enjoy having your children besides you and spending this time with them before they go to bed. Indeed this is all about practice and building habits so you can enjoy the latter part of the day. I know this is not easy and children can be very testing, mindfulness will not make everyday seem like a breeze but if the majority of the week runs like this then it is progress. Your children will not be at home forever so enjoy the time you have with them.

What do you do when the planned mindfulness gets eroded by bad behaviour?

Try responding to what your child does calmly and objectively, do not over react to what they do/have done.

Reacting is shouting or shaming – it can lead to aggression and antagonism. Responding Is reflection, it is about staying calm, firm and appropriate. Learn what your physical signs of anger are – frustration, quickening pulse, sighing, dizziness and sweating

Instead recognise these signs and then pause and breathe, then reflect.

1. “Breathe.” Deep breathe for as long as it takes to calm yourself. Breathing comes the body and mind. It helps you gain rationale thoughts and to make proper decisions so you can respond more clearly.

2. Do not think of your child having a tantrum. They are showing anger, frustration, sadness, they be tired or hungry. They cannot control their emotions, they do not always have the vocabulary to explain what they are feeling and why. Do not react stay calm, talk to them, teach them these good habits.

3. It will pass – It is amazing how quickly children move on. One minute they can be crying and it is the end of the world, the next minute, it is as if nothing happened. Your irritation and anger will pass. Your child’s crying will pass. Trust in change.

4. When you feel your anger and frustration rising, do not shout or get angry. Try a totally different method, give your child a hug. This may seem strange and after being absolutely annoyed it is probably the last thing you want to do, but try it, it may work and you may both calm down. Sometimes a tantrum is all about seeking attention and love, often a gesture of friendship and love can works better than harsh words.

These are just some of the methods that you can use when your child is having a tantrum or testing you. They may help you get through parental challenges. Taking a moment, be mindful, breath, think about your response. One cross word and negative thought can attach itself to another. Taking a mindful pause in order to respond effectively may lead to your child’s behaviour improving, they may pick up good behavioural habits.

Mindfulness takes practice and I believe that a lot of people have a negative view towards it. When practicing mindfulness in parenting do not expect everything to improve at once. Remember at the end of the day kids will be kids and everyone has been a child, had tantrums and given their parents the same frustrations. Sometimes you will need to tell you child off, but if you react in the same way to everything over time the telling off will lose its effectiveness. So try being rational, mindful and respond differently. If you are lucky enough to have a tantrum free evening be mindful and enjoy the time you spend with your children.

Further reading and sources:

https://medicalxpress.com - Mindful parenting reduces child stress

www.nhs.uk - Mindfulness




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