Today’s modern times create new parenting challenges. Technology brings us many exciting tools but can also disconnect us from others, even from our family. Although we often hear the word “mindfulness,” we may not always understand how to use it to overcome some of these new challenges. Mindful parenting applies the process of connection between mind and body to how you deal with your children to create a stronger family relationship.
What is Mindfulness?
The practice of mindfulness means becoming aware of and attentive to what is happening around you, as well as what is happening in your mind and body. The practice of mindfulness-based strategies will naturally settle the nervous system and create a sense of relaxation and calm. By applying these principles to parenting, we can learn to be more connected parents, which translates to a happier home life.
What is Mindful Parenting?
Unfortunately, not everyone has time to read a mindful parenting book or attend a mindfulness parenting class. Mindful parenting is a parenting style focused on connecting yourself to the people around you both physically and emotionally. Physically, it means focusing your body on the people around you. Emotionally, it requires you to manage your feelings so that you can help your children manage theirs.
Practicing mindful parenting helps create positive parenting. In a world where people often just different aspects of parenting, mindfulness allows us to relax and focus on what’s really important — our relationship with our children.
9 Mindfuls Parenting Tip
Focus Your Body in the Moment
That means unplugging from technology and not multitasking. To connect, you have to be present. That happens through meaningful engagements. While this may be your biggest hurdle in mindful parenting, it is the most important one.
Make Time to Practice Mindfulness
Practice makes perfect, so having a designated mindfulness time helps to reinforce the habit. Pick a time of day and stick to it. Devote at least 10 minutes to mindfulness breathing or conversation. When we give our brain and body regular practice at being calm, our Central Nervous System (CNS) is more likely to follow that rhythm. And at a minimum, when our CNS is less taxed, we can handle stress better.
Regulate Mind-Body Connections
By teaching children to connect with the breath, they learn how to notice what their body is telling them. We are always rushing, and anxiety has become an accepted norm. When you make mind-body connections, children learn how to self-regulate more readily. That ability to self-soothe and manage stress is an invaluable tool that helps them today and tomorrow.
Practice active listening
When your children talk to you, put down your phone and make eye contact. Be engaged. Our children know when we are really listening. Children love to chatter and tell stories, and we need to be present and listen to them. These moments create long-lasting connections for both young children and teens. Find the time that they are most likely to talk and be present. Recognize that sometimes our children or teens don’t want advice, they just want to be heard.
Model Kindness and Empathy
Practice what you preach. Mindful and compassionate parenting helps keep our children are calmer. One of the easiest ways to be a mindful parent is to model kindness and empathy. Mindfulness exercises for parents come in a variety of forms. For example, volunteering at the soup kitchen shows your children social compassion, but what you do at home is just as important. It is those little moments of forgiveness, kind language, and humor that all add in the life of a child. Not only should we model kindness and empathy, but we should reinforce it when we see it in the behavior of our children and teens. These little moments make a huge difference in character development.
Use Emotional Language
Families that communicate about feelings have healthier communications and lower stress levels. When we disconnect, we find it more difficult to feel to what we are experiencing. Emotional disconnection often results in uncomfortable feelings such as being unfocused, stressed, or anxious. I recently had a dad tell me how mad he was at his young child for expressing that she didn’t want to make her bed. The father stripped the bed and said in anger and frustration, “Now you have a reason not to like making your bed.” In the dad’s mind, he thought this child had no reason to complain because this is a task she should do. The mindful parenting approach would have been taking a moment and trying to connect with the child about why making her bed feels hard and process it out while working toward a resolution. Instead, both child and parent walked away feeling angry and confused, with each remaining perplexed about the underlying issue. Mindful parenting isn’t the short-cut to parenting, rather, it is a way to improve parenting over time and improve emotional connections and language.
Identify your Emotional Triggers
Mindful parenting activities also include noticing your feelings when you're in conflict with your child. Ask yourself:
- Is this my own stuff?
- Is this from familial patterns of parenting?
- What part did I have in this conflict or situation?
Think about your most recent frustrating situation with your child or argument with your teen. Ask yourself:
- What emotions were triggered?
- Are you angry, irritated, or embarrassed?
- What did it feel like for you in your body?
- Can you be mindful of that feeling and try to learn to calm that on your own?
Rather than blaming yourself think about the situation through your child’s or teen’s eyes and try to feel connected to them. When stress happens, try to respond with kindness, empathy, and emotional language. Make an effort throughout the day to notice in your body where you are holding stress. Think about what makes you feel anxious or annoyed to find emotional triggers. Once you figure out your triggers, you can break that cycle and implement strategies to reduce uncomfortable feelings and stress.
Model Stress Management
Our children learn from watching us, including how to handle stress. We set the tone for not only how our kids manage stress today but how they manage it for their lives. While that may feel overwhelming, a whole lot of positivism lives in that since we can empower our children to learn healthy ways to manage stress. Be mindful of negative self-talk and limiting beliefs, since children pick up this negative talk which can become an Achilles heel for their whole lives. Today’s children have a very low tolerance for stress, and we need to reinforce that stressful things happen to everyone and this is how I manage it. Giving them those tools is an amazing gift.
Be Mindful with Discipline
No good parent enjoys disciplining their child. However, even those most self-regulated kids need discipline and boundaries once in a while, and some children need a lot of behavioral support. Being a mindful parent means making conscious decisions and not just following the same parenting patterns you learned from your parents. If you view discipline as teaching consequences, rather than punishing behaviors, then you understand it is an opportunity to teach your children skills. When helping your child learn through discipline, it is important to:
- Connect in a mindful, non-confrontational way. That means waiting until the battle is over and you both are calm. Learning isn’t going to occur when things are heated, and the situation can even escalate. Mindful parenting is a process, and we want to break this kind of non-productive situation.
- Use emotional language. “I see that you are sad and let’s figure out why?” When you connect to emotions, you reduce stress and improve healthy communication.
- Validate what they are feeling. “I understand that you want to go to that party and you are feeling upset about it.” Everyone wants to feel heard and validating feelings is so important in improving communications and protecting feelings.
- Listen. Be mindful of what they are saying and listen. Don’t interrupt. Just because you are listening doesn’t mean you agree or are “giving in,” rather it is teaching them to hear people out, and that communication involves both speaking and listening.
- Reflection. The process of active communication involves reflecting on what the person has said. As a psychologist, I can tell you that in therapy most kids don’t feel heard by their parents and the process of reflection is a way to mediate that.
- Resolution. Work on a resolution after both parties are heard. The solution can be one that works for both of you. “You can do x after you do x.”
Parenting isn’t easy and learning how to be a mindful parent is a process that pays off both today and tomorrow. Giving your child the gifts of connectedness, empathy, and self-regulation is so important in today’s hurried and stressed world.
To make an appointment with Dr. Roseann or one of our clinicians who are parenting experts call 203.438.4848 or email us at [email protected].
Dr. Roseann is a Psychologist who works with children, adults, and families from all over the US, supporting them with research-based and holistic therapies that are bridged with neuroscience. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and is a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS) and Epidemic Answers. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
©Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2019