How mindfulness can help you parent?
Most of us are probably familiar with the idea that mindfulness can help us stay calm and less stressed, but it may not be completely clear how mindfulness can be especially useful to parents – and how you might go about raising it in the first place.
Here are ten ideas for bringing more mindfulness into your family:
1) A really simple way to call up mindfulness is to bring the attention to the breath. This brings you right into the present moment. It’s really important not to add mindfulness to a “to do” list and then feel guilty about not doing it. Just start doing it right away – every moment you remember.
2) Earmark particular activities for mindfulness practice. For example, when you read your child a story, or when you bathe them. Try to stay mindful throughout the activity, every time you do it.
3) Find a “bell of mindfulness” something that reminds you to be mindful whenever you hear it. I used my children’s angry outbursts as a bell – which was the times I most needed mindfulness!
4) Mindfulness can help you maintain a sense of space and balance. Whenever you find yourself in a potential difficult situation, bring your attention back to your breath and briefly recall your long-term aims. It can help you consider the most appropriate course of action.
5) Build playfulness – and mindfulness – into your everyday routines, for example leave enough time for looking down drains when you do the school run.
6) If you find yourself being distracted by the chores at home, or by your phone or tablet, then take your playtime outside and into nature, where it is easier to let go of distractions and throw yourself into your child’s world.
7) To help you speak with more mindfulness, pretend you are on CCTV, and you’ll get the opportunity to watch the film later. Are you speaking in a way you’ll be embarrassed about? Or will you sound OK? Just momentarily bringing to mind the video camera, can help to gain that little bit of perspective on the situation.
8) Another similar trick to play around with is to imagine that someone you really respect is in the room, listening to you. But make sure you choose someone who understands what you are aiming for, not someone who would judge you by your children’s behaviour. Sometimes the thought of a person can bring out the best in us. That might be a beloved family member, a teacher or a good friend.
9) Even if it’s just for five or ten minutes, try to set aside a specific time each day for practicing mindfulness quietly by yourself. This kind of formal meditation can “top up” your reserves of mindfulness throughout the rest of the day.
10) Playing mindfully with your children can be among the most precious moments of parenthood. Make sure you are present while you do it, and create some lasting memories for both you and your children.
Amber Hatch is a mum of three and author of Mindfulness for Parents (affiliate link) published in paperback by Watkins priced £9.99. She helps run family retreats for the Samatha Centre and meditation classes for mums and babies in Oxford, UK. She is also author of two mindful colouring books and Nappy Free Baby. Find out more at www.amberhatch.com.