Ok, if you're reading this as a busy parent you this might seem impossible. Yet just recognizing how far our habits are from what we intend in our hearts, is mindfulness! It's actually observing what's happening when we're on autopilot (lost in distraction about our to-do list, worrying about what's coming next, or imagining things would be much better "if only" things were different). For many of us, attempting to do "it all" leads to a chronically stressed, pressured state of mind. We may find ourselves doing and saying things to friends, coworkers, partners, and children that we later realize were reactive or harsh, not how we would have responded if we were feeling relaxed and recharged. When we greet each day in this mindset we may end up of feeling drained, ineffective, and like our wished for version of life is different from what we're living. It's "out there" somewhere.
Do you parent the way you were parented?
Mindfulness involves developing insight and awareness to acknowledge and step out of self-defeating habits, reduce stress and live life more fully. It's about noticing our impulses and habits, letting go of problematic thoughts and actions, and bringing greater acceptance and presence to each moment.
In our modern world, many of us have lifestyles that involve tremendous time pressure and stress as we attempt to live up to expectations. These messages can drive us to work overtime, earn more, buy more, and enroll our children in a barrage of activities to try to help them to be the best they possibly can. We may find ourselves going through the daily grind feeling we can barely keep up, much less have time to fully connect with our loved ones. In this climate we are rarely fully present, much less attuned to our truest needs and to the emotions and needs of our loved ones. We may sense a disconnection from others as stress accumulates.
Mindfulness has been researched and found to be effective in reducing stress, improving symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhancing interpersonal relationships. The strategies are highly relevant for reducing ineffective coping behavior, reactivity in parenting, and may be beneficial in improving parenting stress.
Promotes mindfulness education: the evolution of greater well-being and a more compassionate society by fostering research training and practices in mindfulness. Free online meditations set a foundation for personal practice.
Greater Good - The Science of Meaningful Life UC Berkeley and HopeLab bring education and practices in mindfulness and well-being.
Promotes a scientific approach to integrating mindfulness with other strategies for well-being.
Mindful.org and it's companion magazine provide a wealth of valuable mindfulness articles and meditation resources.
Spending time together can take on a variety of different forms, and finding what works best for your family is key. But in this day and age pushing back against the domination of screens, demanding work schedules, and multiple time demands can be challenging.
Taking some time out to take stock of your family's routine and habits along with your goals and intentions for meaningful connection can pay off. This is mindful living - bringing what is happening externally into closer alignment with what you envision and value internally. And it's a gradual, ongoing process. Patience is key.
First, make a list of your values and goals particularly as they relate to the relationships among family members. Also, identify areas of difficuty. Feeling disconnected? Too much conflict? Routine too rushed? Transitions difficult? Once you identify values and goals as well as problem areas you can see more effectively where changes might be made.
Consider how to improve problem areas by stating expectations clearly, using collaborative problem solving, and recognizing children's strengths. Children tend to do better when routines and expectations are relatively predictable; home environments are clean and organized; and they feel attended to and understood. Regular and developmentally appropriate chores can encourage self-efficacy, increase connectedness, encourage gratitude, and lighten the load for busy parents. New routines can be challenging for kids to get used to, but when parents use language that encourages and joins with children it helps to keep the tone upbeat.