Over this past year, I found myself taking an impromptu crash course in Mindful Parenting. With the pandemic’s onset, so many women and caregivers found themselves in stressful parenting situations. As my role of Mother and Teacher merged and expanded as never before, it was necessary to find a new approach. And like most families with young school-aged children, we needed a crash course.
What a Year! Sharing ideas on how my young family learned to navigate the new family dynamic
It was quite challenging to accept and learn from the unique situations that presented themselves each and every day. This year was an eye-opening experience in what it truly means to be mindful. I was failing at mindfulness in new ways and had to accept that this was a learning process! I’m happy to say, there were many successes along the way in my mindful approach to parenting.
Before quarantine, I was reasonably adept at keeping my worlds in their individual time slots – and it worked. My roles as a wife, mom, yoga, and meditation teacher seemed more manageable, but I also had outside help joining me in “raising” my child while I worked. My son was in school full time, which allowed my husband and me to work out a schedule that worked for both of us.
I must admit, it is challenging being patient, non-reactive and mindful 100% of the time or even 50% of the time. I found great comfort in the following quote about practicing patience when deciding what was working and not working in our new reality.
“It is not appropriate to apply anger unless you are in the role of the teacher. When you are teaching somebody how to behave or helping others, some form of anger may be necessary.” Chögyam Trungpa
6 ways to navigate Mindful Parenting without losing your mind
Let’s admit it, stressors and frustrations this year were extremely abrupt, shocking, and sometimes debilitating. Being a mother and teacher, I am learning to rise to the occasion, as I’m sure so many of you are too. With the following techniques, the cooperation of my family, and grounding ourselves in the concept of patience, we are managing some of the most challenging moments in our young families’ history. Set your focus on the next Six ideas. You don’t have to incorporate them all at once; maybe try focusing on one concept a week. See if you can give mindful parenting a try.
1. Mindfulness & Meditation
Start with yourself.
Use Meditation or some other form of centering, noticing your fluctuations in mood, mind, thoughts…etc. Here is a quick instruction guide to connecting with Breath Awareness.
Use this approach to be more mindful of events taking place, make friends with each situation, and better react. Connect to these concepts and respond in the most authentic non-harming way, especially when feelings of frustration, fear, anger bubble up – give yourself a break or timeout. This sets an example of behavior that is simple enough for kids (and spouses) to follow in times it may come in handy.
Keep communication open and meaningful; talk to your child as if they are an adult and part of the decision-making process. Let their voices be heard. Give them chances to express themselves, especially when decisions include them.
If the child is having a whirlwind of emotions, let’s say kicking and screaming, possibly needing a lot of correction for not-so-good behavior or irrational reactions – pause. Maybe they are not following through with the instructions given for a certain task. Let them have their moment and talk to them after they calm down. Quite possibly, they’ve exhausted a lot of their extra energy. This is the perfect exercise to learn about parenting in a mindful way. You’ll get good results if you know to pause.
Table Talk, Small Talk, just talk, talk, talk
Talk about EVERYTHING, find out the child’s interest and build on that interest. Grow your bond over something that they enjoy, and you can enjoy together. Feed into their curiosity, help them cultivate their interest. Try not to hide what is going on in the world as it affects them just as much or possibly more than it affects you. They may also have some ideas on how they see things going. Allow them to choose at least some or part of future actions.
We can’t always shelter them from worldly issues. They hear what is going on no matter how much we try to protect them. I find it’s best to approach this by explaining what’s going on in the world as it is happening. Be open with how the issue affects you personally, invite them to share, ask them questions to help them understand what they are feeling.
This year, my family learned to be unapologetically honest. By being honest with one another, we learn to work with our emotions. We talk about where we are in our process together. It has not only been freeing but empowering for my family to express ourselves honestly and openly without the fear of judgment.
Accordingly, we should encourage honesty in our children. This quick video from the Greater Good Magazine gives some science-based tips on honesty in children.
4. Set up a “loose” routine for yourself and your family
Make a schedule. Like everything, plans change, and you must readjust to make it work. Set aside time to get stuff done but be gentle with yourself if it does not work out the way you planned. As a young mom, my schedule is no longer just my own, and I must roll with whatever comes up and work to be ok with it. I also have to make time for myself if I’m going to be a mindful parent.
Being a small business owner, I had to learn not to get too overwhelmed or frustrated if my work schedule, zoom classes, or meetings didn’t go as planned due to parental responsibilities. I had to remember that living in a world during a pandemic is a new experience for everyone, which is just part of the process.
5. Inviting vs. Forcing
In many instances, force is sometimes necessary; I like the idea of an “inviting approach,” meaning try not to force your opinions or beliefs on a child. Invite them to exam your view, but do not force them to choose it. They can form their own ideas and concepts amazingly on their own. Expose them to many different viewpoints versus closing them off to other points of view. This will aid in healthy conversations and encourages your child to be confident in their decision-making in the future.
You can try something small and simple, like having them choose what types of groceries to buy or help make a menu for dinner.
Whatever that means for you and your family. Play is essential to learning, coping, and living, especially in stressful times. This simple act is sometimes lost for many of us as we “grow up.” Playing with my son is an easy way to keep our sanity through some of the more challenging times as a family. It reminds us, no matter what was going on in the outside world, that our time together at that moment is what is essential. Here is one of my favorites: Building an obstacle course in the backyard.
Learning and remaining to be mindful towards yourself and others is a challenge. The concept of mindfulness could seem impossible at times. Especially with all of the distractions and obstacles of the past year. Within those obstacles, there were also valuable lessons. I could strengthen my family bond by coming to terms with where I was, what I could control, and what I could not. Hope these techniques serve your family as they have mine.
Remember, we learn as we go! Mindful Parenting can be less stressful if you plan. You can do it!
Adding these 6 easy techniques into your toolbox provides a foundation to get you started,
Mindfulness and Meditation create a base for reflection or centering for yourself to become familiar with your fluctuations in mood, mind, and thought patterns. This provides an ideal model that’s easy for children to follow.
Communicate with your child, have open meaningful conversations, and allow your child to join, adding their voice and opinions on any topic. This gives them a sense of security and builds their confidence. It also allows them to build on their interest and aids in their growth development.
Honesty is important. Be completely honest in your interactions with your child. If you are having a bad or stressful day, let them know, and vice-versa listen and be open to their honesty too. Honesty helps build their self-esteem and also allows them to be heard without the fear of being judged.
Be aware of your day-to-day activities
Setting a loose schedule is key. Planning without attachment is challenging, especially when you live on schedules, but it is doable. Try not to get caught up in making deadlines or appointments time. Be ok with needing to make adjustments to your schedule without getting upset. Be a mindful parent and take it easy.
Inviting vs. forcing is a go-to technique. Try not to force too much of your own beliefs or views on your child. Provide the information and resources, but allow them space to form their own opinions on things. Encourage exploration of their view and help them develop their concepts in an inviting manner vs. a forcing way.
Play with your little person. Playing with your child is a gamechanger in being a mindful parent. Keeping a child-like sense of playfulness in times of stressful and challenging times can help alter your mood and keep you grounded in the present moment.
I want to leave you with these words about Mindful Parenting
Mindfulness is a gift that keeps giving. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine will create spaciousness in your life and enhance your parenting technique. Being Mindful allows you to be more communicative and honest, less rigid with time, less forceful, and more playful in your present moments. Utilizing the 6 techniques shared in this Crash Course of Mindful Parenting will give you a great foundation to start. YOU CAN DO IT!
Let me know in the comments if you have any additional ideas you’d like to share. We all learn from one another, so let’s hear what you have to say.