The lowdown on Mindful Parenting from Nicole Rose.
Mindful parenting, as defined by mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, consists of “paying attention to your child and your parenting in a particular way: intentionally, here and now, and non-judgementally”. It is a lifelong practice. It means you become less attached to outcomes and more mindful of what’s unfolding in your life and your children’s lives. It is about seeing your children as they are, not as you want them to be.
Practising mindful parenting doesn’t mean you are never going to be judgemental, or you will never have fear and expectations, those are part of being human. The process is to really begin to see when that happens, and to ask yourselves “how does that feel?”.
How does this impact your children? If parents are more emotionally present in a balanced, more mindful way, the evidence is that children grow up to be grounded and functional in dealing with their own emotionally charged situations.
Below are some simple ways you can begin to practise mindful parenting:
– Regular meditation and yoga practice. From these practices, you will cultivate self-awareness, to your thoughts and tension in your body, which brings out another dimension to your parenting.
– Recommended reading: “Everyday blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting” by Kabat Zinn.
– Reacting vs. responding. Bring more awareness to your mind and body in key moments. Ask yourself, “Am I reacting here or am I responding?” When you are not reacting, you can respond more mindfully, creating a more spacious, nuanced, truer, unique outcome. Remember, whether you are reacting mindlessly or responding mindfully, your child is drinking it all in.
– Mindfully manage your stress. When you start to get worried about something, first ask yourself, “Am I actually really worried or am I just starting to obsess out of habit?” and then use the breath. Take a slow, deep, intentional breath. When we practise yoga, the most important aspect is breath. In my mind, an advanced practitioner is not one that can hold various arm balances and inversions (although they are all a lot of fun and you will learn them in class), but it is someone that can maintain long steady breaths throughout their practice, even during the most challenging of poses. When you are stressed, frustrated, anxious, taking a simple deep breath can bring you back to the present moment.
– Family dinners can also become mindful by not allowing phones at the table and having a moment of gratitude for the food.
– Simple things like positive affirmations and encouraging children to think before they speak can foster an environment of calmness, presence and compassion.
As parents, perhaps the most precious thing you can give your children is the gift of your full presence, in the moment. This is the deep intention and invitation for parents as they make space for mindfulness practice in their lives. Mindful parenting takes to heart the deep truth that we can only give to our children what we have given first and fundamentally to ourselves.