7 Tips to Becoming a Calm and Mindful Parent
Children are such a reflection of ourselves and often what we complain about in their behaviour is something we haven't acknowledged within us. When dealing with a meltdown what's really challenging us is our own discomfort in dealing with emotions, along with the demands of life.
Parenting can be a crash course in learning to see yourself and deal with emotions and stressful situations. Children are so fluid with their emotions, and we are so often called to hold space for their meltdowns through those heart strings we can't ignore.
A study (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168010211001581) by Neuroscience Research shows the impact of meditation on emotional processing and how “meditators are less affected by stimuli with adverse emotional load.”
We can only really bring our presence to them if we have practiced being present with ourselves and sit with the discomfort of our own emotions. Meditation, yoga and mindfulness exercises helped me staying calm and present through the day. Children learn by imitation, so taking space and time for those mindful exercises teaches them to do the same.
Yoga and meditation can be a valuable tool in creating a habit of responding rather than reacting to our children's emotional storms.
The capacity to be sensitive to both our children's processing and our own processing improves with a habit of connecting to our inner space and practicing a quality of observation which is allowing of what is.
Science confirms that meditation can help you cope with the demands of parenthood. A study published in the Archives of Women's Mental Health found that women who used a mindfulness practice in the perinatal and postpartum period experienced significantly less anxiety and stress than women who did not. The former group also demonstrated more self-compassion and were less judgmental and reactive.
Attending to the demands of life with kids in tow can feel like an overwhelming task, and staying calm and peaceful in the process might seem impossible at times. Here are seven tips to bring mindfulness to your day and stay centered — and sane — as a parent:
1. Start the day connecting to yourself
Even if it's only a few minutes, start the day with a mindfulness practice that will affect your day positively. Choose a time when you are most likely to be able to sit peacefully and uninterrupted. Journal or just sit and observe with authenticity the space you are in. Start with loudest aspects of your experience and move to the most silent ones. Keeping breath awareness and an attitude of allowance to everything that is colouring your inner landscape. Create an intention and/or mantra for the day.
2. Commit to daily meditation/ yoga practice
Carve out at least five minutes a day to meditate, sign up to a regular yoga class. This is an act of self-love that will bring benefits to you and your entire family. Draw that boundary with your children, they will observe and learn to do the same for themselves.
3. Your breath is your best friend
Take deeper slower breaths. Randomly during the day focus on your breath as if your life depended on it. It will help you connect with and observe what is going through your experience. Every time you shift your focus onto your breath you are strengthening your 'mindfulness muscle'. If you like, close your eyes and put one hand on your chest, one hand on the belly and notice your hands rising as you breath. Notice your heartbeat.
4. Practice Four-Square Breathing
When things get stressful, compassion and logical thought become difficult. Four-Square Breathing helps sending oxygen to the brain switching the 'reset' button. To practice this, inhale as you count slowly to four. Hold the breath to a count of four, then exhale slowly as you count to four. Hold the breath to a count of four before you inhale again. Repeat for a few rounds and you'll be amazed at how much calmer you’ll feel.
5. Practice Gratitude
Last thing at night, first thing in the morning and any other time of the day, celebrate and celebrate when things go well and those sweet blissful moments of the day. Focusing on gratitude lowers the stress hormone cortisol and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rest and recuperation.
6. Have a dance party in the lounge.
Music and movement can quickly transport you to another world and elevate your mood. Jump around and dance like no one is watching, pay attention to the sensations of your body as you dance. Connect with your children through dance and playfulness.
7. Bring mindfulness to common chores
While taking a shower, vacuuming, driving or washing the dishes pay attention to the sensations on your skin, the smells, listen to uplifting music, practice breathing techniques, sing or listen to a guided meditation.
I hope you find these tools useful on your parenting adventures. If we want our children to be more focused, calm, and less overwhelmed by their emotions and life challenges, we can start by cultivating those qualities ourselves.