Mindfulness is a state of being that involves a mind-body awareness of the present moment through all five senses. An active pursuit and practice of mindfulness allows us to live a more full and productive life as we focus on only what matters at any given time. The art of being mindful is a lifelong process of turning our attention to the present and clearing our minds of judgment and clutter.
Why is mindfulness important as parents? Take some time and (without judgement!) notice how you would answer these questions:
- Have you ever caught yourself talking to your children, but not looking in their eyes?
- How often do you multitask (check your emails, text) when you're at the dinner table with your children?
- How frequently are you taking photos and uploading them to social media, rather than giving full attention to the moment at hand?
In this age of constant digital connection, we are moving farther and farther away from mindful living. Mindfulness reduces stress and improves productivity and general wellbeing, but the practice of mindfulness is more and more difficult to achieve. It is a particular challenge for busy parents with endless demands on time but the more complicated our lives are, the more important it is to live in the present moment. Children are wired to be experts of mindful living. Allowing yourself to be present with your child by letting go of outside pressures will promote a deeper connection with your child and a less stressful parenting experience.
The following tips may help you get started on your path to becoming a more mindful parent
- Begin to take 5 minutes every day to just sit still and relax. Take deep, even breaths and simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath. You can also implement this routine while walking. Pace your steps to your heart beat and recite with each breath an affirmation or calming word of your choice.
- When faced with a challenging parenting moment, try not to react right away. Ask yourself: What is truly important here? Approach your child from a place of compassion, not frustration. Mindful breathing allows us to control our behavior and act from a place of compassion rather than anger.
- Make mindful parenting fun! I like to suggest that parents play simple mindfulness games with their children. “Freeze and Feel” is a good example. Use a type of signal ie. a bell, clapping, flickering of lights, to determine when you and your child will FREEZE, right where you are. Take a couple of deep breaths and take a moment to notice what you are feeling, what your body is doing. Are your hands clenched? shoulders tight? Tell your child to be a detective and search his/her whole body. Give the signal again and bring attention back to the room. Talk to each other about what you noticed.
- Establish device free time every day. Take a break from technology and enjoy the moment. Constant interaction with technology is an experience opposite of mindfulness. Set screen time limits that you also follow and establish daily, non-negotiable screen free family time. You will develop a deeper, more trusting connection with your child and improve your overall parenting experience.