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 youparentthe way youwere 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. Many of us feel an emptiness and deep loneliness. We seek something outside of ourselves to fill the void, perhaps numbing ourselves by checking out through too much screen time or sleep, or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, or blaming others continually for failing to meet our needs or live up to our expectations. Inside, we yearn for a sense of peace, connection, compassion, and love.
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.
Onliine Resources for Establishing Mindfulness Practices
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.
Mindful.org and it's companion magazine provide a wealth of valuable mindfulness articles and meditation resources.
Books and Magazines on Mindfulness
Brain Science - WE're going there!
How our brains react to stress - parents and children
Understanding the basics about brain development and functioning has everything to do with having that "aha!" moment in understanding your child's behavior and figuring out what to do about it. And, luckily, recent developments in brain science (or rather, explosions in brain science) have met up with mindful parenting experts like Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. to create helpful and readable parenting books such as: The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind (Siegel & Payne Bryson, 2011).
Consider how young children seem to become easily overwhelmed by their emotions, much to parents' dismay. Logic often seems lost on young children who are in the midst of a tantrum, where their emotional brain regions are flooded and cortical areas associated with emotional control are not yet fully developed. Even teenagers who visually can appear quite mature seem to act impulsively and make poor decisions compared to adults - and speaks to the importance of parental involvment in teen's lives.
Now brain science explains what actually happens when children (and parents) become flooded with distress. Their "fight or flight" stress response kicks into high gear, dominated by emotions like fear and anger - and rational thinking takes a back seat!
Children can benefit from understanding some very basic lessons about brain functioning and how it relates to self-regulation, learning to be aware and compassionate in the present moment, welcoming and valuing their emotions, and gradually learning to evaluate the nature of their thinking. Raising children with mindfulness may help them to be better prepared to learn, modulate their feelings, be empathetic and attuned with others, and better able to manage stress. Research is now exploring positive benefits of mindfulness on brain development.
Adults can teach mindfulness to children in everyday moments by teaching and practicing together. Parents who practice mindfulness themselves may create a less stressful environment for children, mirroring a calm, compassionate demeanor. Mindfulness can also be cultivated through the senses, using opportunities such as mindful eating, listening, seeing. Daily mindful breathing (even for just a few minutes) may help reduce stress and encourage greater awareness, acceptance and clarity of thinking. Exercises in mindful listening in relationship with one another may also help to improve relationships and social skills.