Anyone with children will agree that parenting is possibly one of life’s most complex and challenging responsibilities. Between caring for children and managing all aspects of their health and wellbeing while simultaneously juggling a myriad of other professional, personal, and social commitments, it may sometimes feel like you are just jumping from task to task or crisis to crisis, with little time to pause to reflect or process any situation. This can understandably contribute to stress and exhaustion and in turn start to affect your interactions and relationships with your little ones. Parenting mindfully and attentively involves slowing down and being present in the moment, even if it comes at the price of efficiency. It not only helps parents cope with stress and perhaps get a new perspective on the things that truly matter, but it also helps connect to children on a deeper emotional level that ultimately creates meaningful lasting relationships. As with any skill, mindful parenting takes practice and patience, and here are a few ways you can start to implement them in your daily routines.
Respond, not react. Perhaps one of the toughest challenges as a parent is to manage your own emotions and actions in a heated moment. Remaining calm is much easier said than done when all hell breaks loose at a point when your patience is already tested to its limits. However, reacting in anger or irritation out of a reflex often makes the situation worse. In those moments, try to pause and breathe to instill some calm into the situation and tell yourself that you will be able to get through it. It can help you keep a handle on your own emotions and anxiety, and you may even find a creative solution or realize that things aren’t really as bad as it felt a moment ago. If possible, try to step away from the situation to give yourself a break or compose yourself – ask your partner, or a friend or family member to watch over the kids while you take a walk or a bath or anything that lets you relax. Remember to pay attention to your own needs so that you can be the best version of yourself for your loved ones. If you notice certain triggers or patterns that cause stress and anxiety you can even proactively engage in the practices so that you are better able to respond to a crisis should it arise.
Get to really know your child. Children can embody complex emotions even at a young age while navigating different phases of their lives. They may not always have the appropriate language or tools to express their thoughts and emotions, which is why it is important to take the time to get to know their unique personalities, their likes and dislikes and their coping strategies. Carve out some time in your schedule to provide your undivided attention – engage them in conversation, understand their perspective and encourage them to express their thoughts in a healthy manner. This is important especially when you disagree with them – by giving them the opportunity to share their views instead of dismissing them, you validate their feelings and make them feel heard. This may not always be feasible to do in busy, stressful moments but you can always revisit it later to help them process the situation. This will go a long way in building trust and foster communication between you and your child.
Lead by example. Children can be very perceptive – not only do they observe your words and actions, but they can also sense your emotions based on your body language, the tone of your voice and other non-verbal cues. They look to parents and guardians as role models, so it is important to lead by example if we want them to learn good behaviors and attitudes. They can learn valuable lessons just by watching your interactions in your daily life and how you handle stress, anxiety, and setback. Of course, there will be bad days when your children may not see you at your best form, and that is okay. Talk through those situations at an appropriate time and use them as learning opportunities for both your you and your children, so they know that there is always room for everyone to learn, grow and evolve.