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Mindful parenting: cultivate greater awareness, presence and joy

Mindful parenting: cultivate greater awareness, presence and joy

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment and living your life with greater awareness, attention and intention. Using deep breathing techniques to root you to the here and now, mindfulness offers the tools to stop ruminating over the past and fearing the future, thus allowing yourself to greet each moment with non-judgmental awareness and compassion. This means having the ability to notice what is arising in the moment and then letting it go. You can see your thoughts and feelings exist just as they are without over identification or attachment. Cultivating a mindfulness practice is learning to get out of your thinking mind and into your feeling body, trusting your inner wisdom to strengthen your mind/body connection and becoming an active participant in your life.

Mindful parenting is the lifelong practice in which you recognize that each moment is an opportunity to bring your full presence and awareness to your child. It is cultivating your own center and place of calm, so that you are more able to respond and not react, to get unhooked from your expectations or judgments, and allow yourself to come into your breath, your body and break from habitual, unskillful patterns.

Being a mindful parent is learning to be in tune with your children, and being their guide, teacher and source from which they role model their own behavior. Practicing mindful parenting gives you the tools to cultivate greater empathy and compassion, focus on gratitude, and let go of judgments or expectations in an effort to strengthen connections and create an atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance.

Being a mindful parent is viewing your children in their own sovereign nature and parenting consciously--and with intention--to who your children actually are, rather than who you think they are, think they should be or want them to be. It is about recognizing that there is much joy to be found amidst the chaos of daily life and being able to draw upon the tools to slow down, breathe, appreciate and have gratitude for whatever this moment is bringing.

This does not mean that you have to like every moment. It simply means you learn to accept each moment as it is, without judgment or attachment and have the faith that life is unfolding exactly as it should. Mindful parenting is not something you add to your to-do list. Rather, it is your way of being in the world, bringing conscious awareness to the quality of presence and attention you bring to your child and everything you do.


Do

Do take a minute and just breathe

Parents are easily overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities of life and don’t often take a minute for themselves to slow down or be present. Mindfulness is rooted in practicing stillness and connecting with your breath. As it is natural healing, it re-oxygenates your brain, allowing your body to operate at its optimal level and has the ability to bring you back into your present moment experience. And if you are not getting the breath that you need, you can’t sufficiently be there to care for those around you.

The practice: Set time aside in your day to practice stillness and connect with your breath. Begin by meeting yourself exactly where you are and start noticing where in your body you are feeling yourself breathing. Silently saying the words, “breathing in, breathing out,” acts as an invitation to let go of your thoughts, draw your awareness back into the here and now and allow your breath to be the anchor to the present moment. Acknowledge how it feels to slow down, breathe and connect with your body. Recognize that you can take a minute to just breathe wherever you are, wherever you need.

Do be present with yourself and your child

A mindful parent practices being physically, emotionally and spiritually present with their child. Mindfulness offers the tools to notice where your mind’s attention is at and then use your breath as a gentle guide back into the here and now. Each and every moment is an opportunity to strengthen your connection with your child through intentional acts of presence. The more kids see you focusing on being present, the more you are role modeling the same for them.

The practice: Notice when your attention has shifted away and use deep breathing techniques to draw you back into the here and now, thus allowing yourself to be more fully present with your child. It will deepen your bond, and make each moment sweeter because you will actually be paying attention to it.

Do respect your child’s sovereign nature

Being a mindful parent means recognizing that you do not own your children, but rather you are their guide into becoming well-adjusted, secure adults. This means acknowledging your children’s true essence of their being and encouraging them to grow into the best versions of themselves.

The practice: Let go of your expectations of who you think your children should be and consciously parent to who they actually are. Honor their uniqueness, their individual way of being in the world and their beautiful intrinsic nature. Notice when expectations or judgments are arising, allow those thoughts or feelings to exist and then let them go. Continue to breathe into the present moment and your intentions.

Do respond instead of react

It is very easy to get caught up in unskillful, habitual patterns of reacting. Mindfulness helps you get out of that negative cycle by slowing down and being fully in the present moment, connect with your intentions and make a conscious choice on how to proceed with skill.

The practice: Allow for space to exist in between cause and effect to slow down, take a deep breath, find your center, calm your body and intentionally decide how you want to respond.

Do listen with an open heart and communicate with compassion

Everyone, especially children, just want to be heard, validated and understood. Kids don’t always need their problems solved, they just need to know that what they are experiencing is normal and they are going to be okay. The more you can practice acceptance of whatever it is arising, the more they will continue to see you as a source of compassion and connection.

The practice: When your children come to you, expressing a problem or feeling an uncomfortable emotion, you don’t need to solve what got them there in the first place. Acknowledge their emotion, give space for it to exist without judgment, offer love and compassion, respond with kindness and continue to breathe.


Don't

Do not let time pass you by

Life happens so fast and the most constant thing is change. With parenting, the days are long, but the years are short and your kids will be out of your house before you know it. Parents can get so caught up in the minutia that they miss the beauty in the moments in between the chaos, noise and mess.

The practice: Look for the joy in each moment by choosing to focus on what you are grateful for. Breathe into the chaos, the messiness and noise with gratitude and appreciation for having the opportunity to experience this moment. You invited this energy into your life and one day, you will long for the wonderful energy of kids being in your house. Appreciate being here now.

Do not be attached to outcomes

Mindfulness is the practice of letting go and not having an attachment to any particular outcome. Being a mindful parent is about learning how to be adaptable, be in the moment and go with the flow of whatever life is presenting at the moment. Things don’t always go the way we plan. The unexpected often happens, and when we are so attached to the ways we thought it had to be, we cause ourselves unnecessary frustration and suffering. This does not mean you should not plan, have goals or set limits with your child. Rather, it means to let life unfold in its natural course.

The practice: Breathe, notice when you are getting attached to a particular outcome and then let go of the expectation that it has to be that way. Be present with your moment-to-moment actions, stick with your intentions and have faith that life is unfolding exactly as it should. Everything happens for a reason.

Do not react to your child’s emotional outbursts

It is normal for parents to have expectations of their child’s behavior. It is also common to feel frustrated when your child acts in an undesirable way. Mindful parents notice when they are getting caught up in reacting to their kid’s emotional outburst and instead of escalating the situation, they will see it as a moment to strengthen the parent/child connection and guide their child towards learning how to manage difficult emotions.

The practice: When your child is having a strong emotional outburst, use your breath to create space for you to respond and not react. Allow your presence to remain centered and compassionate for what they are feeling, without judging them for not knowing how to express themselves. Guide your children in calming their body by helping them find their breath and treat them with love and non-judgmental acceptance for any emotion that is arising. Remind them that all emotions are normal. And they won’t feel this way forever, it is just how they are feeling right now.

Do not multi-task

Multi-tasking appears to be a parent’s best friend. Although it is productive, when multi-tasking, you don’t bring quality attention to any one thing you are doing. When being with your kids, though you are physically there in front of them, you may be focused on 10 other things at the same time. When parents are constantly distracted by the many demands they face, not only do the kids notice and feel it, but they also are role modeling to their children how to not be fully present.

The practice: When being with your kids, actually be with them. Breathe into each moment, make eye contact, listen with open ears, speak with intention, put down your digital device and give them the gift of your presence.

Do not dismiss your body’s messages

Mindfulness is the practice of getting out of your head and into your body. Your body contains natural wisdom and it is common to be too stuck in your head and in your thoughts to notice the messages your body is conveying. The more in tune you are with your body, the better you will be at tapping into your inner wisdom and intuition. The body doesn’t lie and being able to operate from a heart-centered place will always lead you in the right direction, especially in your parenting. The more skilled you become at being in touch with your sixth sense, the better able you will be at guiding your children in developing a stronger relationship with their body, allowing them to make better choices and decisions.

The practice: Breathe into your body and notice the sensations arising. Notice your thoughts without acknowledging them as reality. Your thoughts are simply your thoughts. Practice getting out of the thinking mind and into the feeling body and trust whatever is arising as your truth.


Summary
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The goal of parenting is to raise a secure, confident, well-adjusted adult. A happy childhood is a bonus. Mindful parenting allows you to become the best parent you can be by providing the skills to cultivate awareness, presence, connection, authenticity, compassion, gratitude and acceptance. Practicing these skills will not only allow you to be here now and enjoy the process, but you will also deepen your relationship with your child by honoring their true nature.

The practical tools of using your breath to calm your body down and letting go of thoughts, attachments and expectations provides you the ability to view each moment anew and as an opportunity to allow space for whatever is going to arise. By embodying these skills, you are also role modeling to your child a way of being in the world that will give them coping mechanisms to deal with whatever life throws their way. Mindfulness is a simple practice. It is just difficult to always remember to practice. Meet yourself where you are at, take it one breath, one day at a time. And if all else fails, don’t forget to take a minute and just breathe.


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Photo Credits: © La India Piaroa - Fotolia.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Joree Rosenblatt, MAMindfulness Educator

Joree Rosenblatt has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is currently completing her licensure towards becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. She works with individuals, couples and families, and is also the counselor onsite at an indepen...

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