There's a reason why seasoned parents tell you to enjoy this time while your child is young. For busy parents, the concept of mindfulness is sometimes hard to grasp. However, practicing mindful parenting can help you strengthen your relationship with your child.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of living in and enjoying the present moment without getting caught in the fray of thoughts and feelings that aren't part of that moment. This concept is at the heart of Buddhist meditation and gives you the opportunity to experience life more fully by being aware of what's happening in the present and examining it objectively.
The Struggle with Being Mindful
According to Scott Rogers, Director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies, parents don't spend enough time in the present. "We have this tendency to think about the future and worry about what might or might not happen and regret the past and the mistakes we think we made," says Rogers. Being a mindful parent means finding ways to be more in the present moment where frustration, worry, and anxiety don't exist. Those types of emotions come from thinking of what's to come, not what's happening.
Applying Mindfulness to Parenting
It isn't easy to be a mindful parent. In their book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, suggest that the simplest way to begin is to ask yourself what's really important. Once you figure that out, you can learn how to respond to your child rather than react to them. Responding means taking a breather to sort through your thoughts and make an active choice about what to say or do in that moment. It could be as difficult as recognizing their need for comfort and compassion instead of letting your anger take over. Or, it could be as simple as realizing that what's important at this moment is to play with your child.
Ways to Be a More Mindful Parent
Being a mindful parent takes work and, like anything, you need to practice to get better at it. You can start by trying these exercises:
- Look at the world from your child's point view--not from what you think their point of view may be. Ask them to describe the way things appear or sound to them.
- Review your expectations of your child to assess whether or not they're realistic.
- Try hard to be a balanced parent, one who is neither too protective or indulgent, too controlling or inflexible.
- Be fallible. It's okay to let your child know when you're unsure about something or to apologize when you're wrong.
When you're able to take the time to simply be with your child without trying to change them or tell them what to do, you're not only being mindful, you're letting your child know you accept them for who they are.