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Nurturing yourself leads to nurturing the development of your kids

Nurturing yourself leads to nurturing the development of your kids

As we look outward into our life experience, we tend to feel as if what we need is somewhere outside of us. But what if the things we are looking for have been within us the entire time?
Defined as an awareness of the present moment with acceptance, mindful awareness allows us to nourish the self. When parents and teachers take care of themselves, it leads to the nurturing of the social and emotional development of our children.

Learning to practice awareness of our inner experience can lend itself to a deeper sense of knowing, which opens us up to a reservoir of creative ideas, inspired thought and an abundance of possibilities. To achieve mindful awareness, we must take a little time each day to be still and bring attention to breath. Taking the time to be in intentional stillness each day can build one’s ability to notice feelings, impulses, thoughts and sensations (FITS)--and empower the self to reflect on experience--instead of to react.


Do

Do be open to self-love

What if you loved yourself in the same capacity that you loved your dog? Consider something or someone that is so easy to love, where love is the dominant depth of feeling. As you cultivate that feeling to enter your experience, allow yourself to attach that same feeling to a thought or image of yourself. Be open to the idea that this feeling you are experiencing can be a permanent sense of love for your own self. Keep in mind that we cannot give something to someone else that we don’t have ourself.

The phrase, “Do what’s best for kids” is often heard in a school building. As it relates to self- care, what is best for the parent/teacher is also what is best for kids. For example, getting a full night of rest or making a healthy breakfast and lunch for the day is what is best for you. When we are mindless, we often forego the rest and healthy eating to get one more thing accomplished for our kids. The more we practice mindful awareness, the less power ‘time’ is given, as we free up more space both within and outside of ourselves. When we are mindful of our own well-being and take care of the self, we set an example and indirectly invite others to do the same.

Do treat your inner experience with curiosity and compassion

Compassion can be defined as a lack of comparison, ridicule or judgement. As we practice awareness, we do so with the intention of observing our inner experience. As we observe, we notice our experience (or FITS), instead of being enslaved by it. When we learn to be curious, we can ultimately create what we want by recognizing the power we have over our FITS. After all, it is difficult to be curious and unhappy at the same time.

As we interact with children, we may notice the impulse to react in a particular way. But when we are mindful, we learn to recognize an impulse to simply be an impulse--and not necessarily feel the need to act upon it.

For example, if a well-meaning young person makes a statement about our personal appearance and it happens to be something we are sensitive about, the impulse may be to personalize the comment. Mindful awareness allows us to observe our reaction, which may go something like this: We feel insecure, which could mindlessly allow for a dialogue of insecure thoughts to take place in our mind that only feed the feeling of insecurity and chronic feelings, such as sadness, anger or worry. Mindful awareness may bring a smile to our face as we notice the sensation of hunger or tiredness that heightens the reaction to an insult that was unintentional, and we forgo the impulse to react in a negative way, either internally or externally. Sensations are subtle, and as we practice mindful awareness, we may begin noticing these visceral reactions and learn to let go as an habitual response.

Do remember to laugh

Recognize the importance of humor and connectedness with others in cultivating a true sense of well-being. Where solitude and stillness help cultivate a deep sense of peace and purpose, laughing creates a deep feeling of well-being. The more we learn to recognize our FITS, the more humorous our observations can become.

Naming the FITS can be humorous as well. For example, our emotional reactions come from the right brain, which is reacting directly from the limbic system, which contains our emotions and memories. It is also located directly on top of the brain stem, which collects the energy and information from our body. As we practice mindful awareness, we notice and observe what is going on in our body. When we label our emotions (thinking, fantasizing, ruminating), we actually tap into our left brain, helping to integrate and balance the brain. If we do so in a light-hearted way, we can begin to appreciate ourselves and let go of senseless habits that keep us from being connected to the mind and the body in the present moment.

According to Dan Siegel, author and director of the Mindsight Institute, laughter not only allows us to connect with ourselves and one another, but it stimulates neuroplasticity. This can have a direct result in the shaping of our neural pathways and can permanently change how we view ourselves and our experiences.

Do tap into creativity, inspiration and possibilities

When you allow yourself to be still and aware in the present moment, even your thumbnail can look amazing. We are conditioned to so many modern conveniences, as well as physiological miracles, that we fail to “live the art we showcase.”

Think of the quotes you may have hanging up or written down somewhere. What if we truly integrated these expressions into our potential? If we truly believe that within us lives creative ideas, inspired thought and unlimited possibilities, how would this impact our day-to-day experience?

Children seem to have a natural tendency to be creative and use their imaginations. We can tap into their awareness and have them help us create ways to understand our art in fun and imaginative ways. If art is expression, there are no rules to this play.

Do set aside time to reflect

Often, we understand concepts and ideas in an intellectual or theoretical sense. We can communicate ideas that would enhance our overall well-being and contribute to the greater good. Mindful awareness (or mindfulness practice) is a skill that is practiced regularly and contributes toward a state of being, in which to experience your life from.

Mindfulness is what integrates intellect into experience. Whether you practice on your couch, walking, stretching or lying down, it might be helpful if you create the conditions to be successful by being intentional about a daily practice--even if it is for the first 20 seconds upon waking in the morning. Once people tap into this awareness, they tap into their natural alignment with something more. And what happens then is their own journey.

The experience and practice of purposely creating feeling in your body can be exhilarating. Practice creating feelings intentionally with your child. Positive mental thoughts, images and sounds can be constructed and consequently create the desired feeling in your body. And practicing this can become a useful habit. Creating a feeling, such as peace or kindness, and imagining yourself giving that feeling to someone else, can be uplifting and habit-forming as well. For young people, this practice lends itself to children’s natural feelings of altruism, as well as empowering them to share positive energy when they feel powerless. For example, this is the way children might feel when they see a person on the freeway, holding up a sign asking for money or food.


Don't

Do not make stillness complicated

Mindfulness is currently gaining a great deal of scientific ground with multiple research studies, which clearly demonstrate its effectiveness. A respectable research study seems to follow a method that allows for measurable results, such as 20 minutes of guided meditation for 8 weeks. Many articles and books summarize a specific way to practice, based on the findings of the article/book they are referencing.

To begin, you must be still. Once a person taps into this deeper sense of awareness, what happens next will flow from an organic space within the self that has the ability to harmonize with a greater good for all living systems. Creating a ritual in the home, which allows for stillness, can be helpful. For example, try ringing a bell to begin dinner. Children will get into the habit of silence until the sound ends--and then they can proceed to talk about their day.

Do not limit yourself or your thoughts

As with any new skill, we may find ourselves mentally listing all of the reasons we can’t do something. This is the organ called the brain, and mindfulness is an awareness of our brain and its tendencies toward limited thought. Mindful awareness allows us to notice our tendency to limit ourself without identifying with it or making it personal.

A new habit that can be fun is to consider, what if everything went better than expected? We also can change our hardwiring of holding onto things that are unhelpful into allowing us to recognize what is helpful and what adds to our experience. An exciting and challenging mindset is to consider that children are here to teach us for only a short time. So what is our lesson to learn?

Do not talk about it

Mindful awareness is a difficult thing to teach, as it is something to be experienced. Be still and notice the urge to talk about it and explain it, as opposed to actually doing it. Observe your impulses/urges and allow them to be just that. Experiencing the release of energy as opposed to acting on it is a huge benefit to mindful practice.

Children will learn more about mindful awareness from experiencing it and observing others practice it. Talking about mindful awareness fuels our intellectual needs, but it does not necessarily allow for the practice to integrate into our daily experience. By practicing mindfulness, we cultivate the experience in our own life experience, which allows us to feel the benefits. Mindful awareness is a simple practice that has a profound effect on the way we view ourselves, our relationships and the world around us. It is personal and unique to the nature of each individual.

Do not use limiting words

It is helpful to be knowledgeable about limiting words. Obviously, the word, don’t, has its place in the English language. However, the brain has a primal tendency to hold onto what we can’t do for survival purposes, as opposed to naturally considering what we can do.

Mindfulness practice can help us create new thinking habits that allow for instant recognition for do--as opposed to don’t. Control will meet resistance as resistance will meet control. Mindful awareness helps us observe in an effort to let go and release the energy that can create control and resistance.

Observe the patterns of control and resistance in your own life within yourself, as well as in your relationships. If you have a pet, this idea is easy to observe as a function of our mammalian brain. Use your own body as a laboratory to see what happens when you notice the impulse to control or resist, and observe what happens when you label what is going on and consciously let go of the desire to control or resist.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Mindful awareness is the practice of stillness, the awareness of the present moment with acceptance. When we practice observing our FITS, we may uncover underlying beliefs and attitudes that are limiting our natural alignment with the universe.

Words, such as harmony and flow, along with expansive thought, are all ideas that are to be experienced and allowed, as opposed to being explained and forced. Instead of our tendency to focus on why something won’t work, consider what might work and allow yourself to experience whatever makes sense to you, in your own personal way. This awareness will not only allow us to nourish the self, but also the social and emotional development of our children.


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Photo Credits: Nurturing yourself leads to nurturing the development of your kids; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Sally Seiffer, MSWSchool Social Worker and Registered Psychotherapist

In 1995 I graduated from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois with a Bachelor’s in Science - Teacher Education...Physical Education to be more specific. I moved out to San Diego, California where I worked as an on site substitute teach...

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