It’s a word that’s recently come into the mainstream: mindfulness. It sounds impressive, but what is it? Mindfulness is touted as a way to improve our health and well-being by purposely paying attention and staying in the moment. It allows you to regulate your emotions and quiet your mind. In a fast-paced world full of stress, these are valuable skills to have.
Mindfulness is nothing new, really, but lately it’s emerged as an effective treatment for everything from ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral disorders. And research has shown that, with or without these issues, learning to practice mindfulness in parenting can be of great benefit for our kids, improving not just our health and well-being but theirs too.
Mindful parenting is not complicated, but it does take practice. If we learn some basics, we will see positive effects. Those mindful parenting basics can be boiled down to:
- Noticing our own feelings when in conflict with our child.
- Learning to pause before giving an angry or negative response.
- Listening to our child’s point-of-view even when we disagree with them.
Learning to practice these behaviors consistently keeps us present in the moment and focused on the here and now, which is at the heart of mindfulness.
So besides helping to treat behavior disorders like ADHD and anxiety, how does mindful parenting lead to improved health and well-being? In a few ways:
Mindfulness reduces stress in both parents and kids. Data is becoming available that reports the greatest source of childhood and adolescent stress is parental stress. When we are stressed out, our children are too, and that’s not good for anybody. When a parent is practicing mindfulness, they bring their own stress levels down. And less stress means less anxiety, better sleep, and improved overall life satisfaction. And that’s good news.
Mindful parenting produces an environment that creates a sense of safety for a child. They feel more secure and when children feel secure, they are set up to thrive.
Perhaps the most promising argument for mindful parenting is research that has shown that kids who have parents who practice mindfulness are less likely to use drugs and participate in other risky behaviors. And that’s really good news.
So what does it really look like to be a mindful parent in the daily grind of life? The folks at Child Mind Institute suggest that there’s not just one right approach, but a variety of ways to implement the practice.
Mindful parenting looks like slowing down, observing our own reactions, and creating perspective so we can restructure frustrating situations.
It might look like trading efficiency in routine for being present in the moment.
It might look like meditation, body awareness, and breathing.
It looks like cutting ourselves some slack for not being perfect parents, not beating ourselves up for every mistake we make, and resetting our idea of “good enough”.
It looks like distancing ourselves from negative thoughts by spotting them, owning them, and labeling them.
It looks like demonstrating less negative emotion with our children, and instead expressing and sharing more positive emotion in our interactions.
It definitely looks like managing our stress levels and maintaining a sense of calm.
In the end, mindful parenting means staying in the present with our kids, not worrying about the future and not punishing ourselves for the past. Slowing down and taking time to know ourselves, listen well, and find the positive will go a long way toward promoting good health and well-being both for us and our kids.
Garey, Juliann. (2019, August 23). Mindful parenting. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/mindful-parenting-2/.
Garey, Juliann. (2019, August 23). How mindfulness can help caregivers. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/how-mindfulness-can-help-caregivers/.
Suttie, Jill. (2016, June 13). How mindful parenting differs from just being mindful. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/mindful-parenting-may-keep-kids-trouble/.
Turpyn, Caitlin & Chaplin, Tara. (2015, September). Mindful parenting and parents’ emotion expression: effects on adolescent risk behaviors. Mindfulness. 7. 10.1007/s12671-015-0440-5.
Watt, Tessa. (2017, April 20). 5 mindful tips for parenting conundrums. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/5-mindful-tips-for-parenting-conundrums/.