Parenting isn’t easy and there are many times when it doesn’t match up to expectations or reflect the perfect picture of family harmony which you see so often in carefully curated social media feeds or glossy magazines.
Parenting is real. It’s precious and beautiful and rewarding, but it can also be messy, challenging, unpredictable, frustrating and of course, unbelievably busy. There will be plenty of situations when your responses are reactive and you look back and wish you’d acted differently. Emotions can run high in the heat of the moment or when you’re juggling multiple balls and it’s impossible to get things right every time. And that’s OK. But if you do want to be less impulsive in stressful situations, slow things down and have more control over your responses, there is something you can do. You can practice mindfulness.
And that’s OK. But if you do want to be less impulsive in stressful situations, slow things down and have more control over your responses, there is something you can do. You can practice mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
You hear a lot about mindfulness these days, but what is it exactly?
In a nutshell, being mindful is about being fully present and engaged in the moment. It’s about calmly and gently focusing all of your attention and awareness on your current experience without distraction, judgement or expectation. It’s about being in the ‘now’.
It’s also a technique that can be learnt.
It is possible to teach ourselves how to focus completely on the moment, but it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong to mindfulness. It’s simply not possible to be fully immersed in whatever you’re doing all of the time, but mindfulness is a very useful technique for dealing with difficult or volatile situations in a more constructive, positive way. To put it in a nutshell, mindfulness is a valuable tool to support emotional regulation and holistic wellbeing.
What is mindful parenting?
It does take a bit of practise - perhaps that’s why they call it ‘practicing’ mindfulness - but with effort and commitment to learn how to be mindful and how to apply mindful attention to parenting, the outcomes and benefits are remarkable.
A good way to describe mindful parenting is being actively attentive to interactions with your child and responding in a way that is uplifting and positive for everyone. It’s an approach to family life that places parents and children fully in the present moment in a calm, thoughtful and intentional way.
Mindful parenting can be a circuit breaker for negative behaviours from both children as well as from parents because it enables a pause between emotion and response. Mindfulness is not about denying your feelings in a challenging situation, but is rather a mechanism for noticing your emotional responses and using your mindful skills to take a breather, pause and reset.
Here’s an example. Your child is having a tantrum because they don’t want to leave the playground. It’s getting late, supper needs to be made, the older sibling has homework to do and both you and your child are tired and hungry. Instead of admonishing your child, getting frustrated and hurrying them up, your (better) mindful response would be to acknowledge the situation, accept the realities of your little one’s age and stage, help them name their emotion and then help them calm down and divert their attention. How you do that will be different for each child.
Getting home may take a little longer, but when you are grounded and able to help shift your child’s mood, the positive outcomes will be worth any small delays.
Mindful parenting can help parents understand and accept their own feelings as well as help their child understand their own emotions and feel heard and respected.
Benefits of mindful parenting
The example above illustrates one of the benefits of mindful parenting - helping young children identify and acknowledge their strong emotions and learn to shift their focus to something more positive.
There are numerous other benefits for both parent and child, including:
Healthier family relationships and stronger connections
- Improved communication skills between parents and children
- Greater insight for parents into their own feelings and stressors
- Greater tolerance and understanding with regard to mistakes and missteps
- Parents can become more reflective, more attentive, more empathetic, more patient, more curious about their children and more accepting
- Parents are less likely to react emotionally (and often irrationally) to difficult and challenging situations
- Fewer conflicts and reduced levels of anger, stress and anxiety
- More effective and more positive conflict resolution
- Parents and children feel more in control of their emotions
- Provides children with positive coping mechanisms
- Decreased likelihood of problematic or negative behaviours
Another key benefit is that children learn from their parents’ behaviours, and so when adults demonstrate mindfulness and are able to regulate their emotions, the child models that approach.
Mindful parenting helps children feel loved unconditionally. It fosters a healthier attitude towards mistakes or imperfections (on the part of both parent and child) and it helps everyone develop a stronger sense of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Here at Evoke Early Learning, we strongly believe in mindfulness as a valuable life skill and you may be interested in reading this article on mindfulness in early education to learn more. You’re also welcome to visit our early learning centres to witness our safe and nurturing environments which promote knowledge and inspire a lifelong love of learning. Book a tour or get in touch with our friendly team in either our Albert Park or Clayton early learning centres and we look forward to meeting you!