Meditation, balance, and mindfulness; these are more than just buzzwords. More than just chanting or yoga or one of the many mind/body/spiritual practices that are out there to try. What is the practice of mindfulness? It’s about being in the moment; being present and grounded in your mind and your body. It’s about going within, not just being in your head, but being fully present in your body and being mindful of all of your surroundings and your place in the universe at any given time. How do we incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives? What about mindfulness and parenting? How does the practice of mindfulness enhance our parenting experience and benefit the family? You may be surprised to know that practicing mindfulness can make you not only a better person and partner but a better parent as well.
So much of parenting can be stressful. It seems like we’re always working against the clock to get everything done in time; the coffee, the breakfast, the kids’ lunches, getting them to the bus or school on time, and yourself to work on time. It’s no wonder we get stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Parents often become sleep deprived, over caffeinated and short tempered. Then SNAP! We’ve all been there. Being in the moment is not a place you want to be when you’re feeling like this!
However, what if you could flip the script and approach these types of chaotic situations with a calmer mind, a more centered approach and were able to keep yourself from being overwhelmed? Think of how that would affect everyone in the household and give all of you a better start to the day. This is possible through the practice of mindfulness in your life. This doesn’t require very much time or action on your part, surprisingly, but it does require a shift in your way of thinking about your parental role, and some small changes in your routine to facilitate this shift. I’m not talking about sitting and chanting and meditating in silence because let’s face it, that’s not entirely realistic, especially for parents of younger children. You don’t even get to go to the bathroom alone most of the time!
Instead, take it in small increments. Small changes can make a huge difference in creating this mindfulness shift. There are many ways to go within. Take a walk. Concentrate on observing your surroundings; being aware of your place in the space that you occupy. Breathe in. Breathe out. Concentrate on the breath, the feet, the feeling of the air on your face. You’re now practicing mindfulness. Focus on the awareness of your feet on the ground. Don’t count your steps, just feel them.
You can do a reading meditation. Read positive affirmations, spiritually uplifting materials, or even your novel of the day. While you do it, really internalize what you’re reading; look for the deeper meaning and intention behind the author’s words. This is also practicing mindfulness.
We know that when we’re under stress, it affects our body. We tighten up, we clench our jaw, our breathing becomes shallow, and it affects our ability to think clearly. Our rising blood pressure clamps down the veins and arteries bringing blood to our brains. These are actual physiological changes that occur. When you’re used to practicing mindfulness you can avert much of these physical changes by putting yourself into that space within that you go to when you’re meditating. Lower the blood pressure; deepen the breathing, calming your mind.
When the kids are disruptive, when you feel like things are getting off balance, getting too chaotic and you start to have those visceral reactions, you can consciously take a step back, go within, and take some deep breaths and allow yourself to be present in your body and experience the relaxation that brings. Breathe through that moment where you might otherwise be triggered, and you can change the entire atmosphere of the room.
Your children, from infants to teenage will benefit from this because they will not have a crazy out of control parent yelling and ranting. They will see you modeling this calm and relaxed persona, and they will respond accordingly. Arguments and disagreements will not escalate to the same levels and children can learn how to follow your example of conflict resolution and remain calm in the midst of the storm.
Mindfulness practice creates a deeper connection with your partner. When you are grounded and balanced, your interpretation of your relationship to your partner becomes kinder, and you have a broader perspective. Being present at the moment with your partner means that you observe and listen better and you look for the deeper meaning when you communicate; always staying mindful of the love and connection that underpins your life together. You and your partner can weather some intense storms when you’re connected on this level.
This practice is also extremely helpful in parenting and co-parenting with ex-spouses where you may not often (or ever) seem to agree on child-rearing issues. If you and your ex had an ugly break up and are not on good terms, your practice of mindfulness can help you to navigate those problematic interactions without becoming emotionally unbalanced or thrown into a negative mind frame.
Practicing mindfulness is deceptively easy once you know how. On the whole, it leads to a well-rounded and emotionally well-balanced individual who doesn’t rush to judgment doesn’t become easily triggered or overwhelmed and is happier overall. Self-care isn’t a dirty word, and parents especially need to devote some of that famous “me time” to the pursuit of those practices that will improve our lives and those of our family. After all, isn’t that the parent we want to be for our kids? I know I do.