Are you a mindful parent?

Are you breathing?

Developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), is a technique created to help cope with stress through creating awareness of the breath and other bodily sensations.

And it all starts with noticing that you are breathing. Not because breathing itself solves anything but because focusing on the breath helps you redirect yourself. Away from the mind and its complicated thinking web and towards the body and the present moment.

Present as a parent

Mindful parenting then, quite simply means, to become aware of the way in which we parent. The tone, the manner, the habits, the sometimes unconscious projections we put onto our children. 

It’s about understanding and acknowledging, as best you can, your child's world. The social pressures that may be driving certain behaviours. As well as the essence of who your child is. Their unique world view.

As a mindful parent you need to be both aware of your child as a whole AND the way you relate to him. Especially around points of disagreement – the edgy stuff that makes parenting challenging.  At the same time it’s important to notice your internal world.

For example, noticing why your teen son’s sloppiness makes you angry - and realising that he probably isn’t intentionally dressing like that to anger you but rather because it’s his choice of self-expression.

Being in the parenting moment

At a completely different level - and this is where mindful parenting gets super hard -  it's about going through those boring, daily tasks in a mindful way. Who would've thought: brushing teeth is an opportunity to connect?

To notice: 'here I am with my children and we're all brushing our teeth. Tom's doing that thing he always does - playing with the toothpaste. While Cynthia, being her diligent self, is focussed on the task at hand. And I'm here too. And suddenly I notice that for the last 34 years I've brushed my teeth without knowing what I do with my left hand. Apparently  I put my hand on my stomach. I wonder if that's a legacy from three pregnancies or if it's something I've always done.’

With mindfulness practice (and it takes consistent practice) slowly you will begin to notice the manner in which you relate to your children. The frequency with which you are attuned (or mistuned) to their needs. Simultaneously you become mindful of how attuned you are to your own needs. And that's a critical part of mindful parenting too.

Recognising when your limits are being reached. The perpetually sleep-deprived parent becomes less and less able to be mindful and so less and less able to be present. To REALLY pay attention to what's happening in and around your child's world.  In this instance being a mindful parent is about taking time out to rest knowing that you'll return with a renewed  ability to be present for your children.   

Nobody said it would be easy. Parenting has to be the toughest job in the world. Mindfulness is such a simple and simultaneously profound tool. By getting in touch with the breath you can buy yourself  valuable seconds. In doing so you’ll become grounded and be able to focus on the task at hand.

Beneath all the chaos that is parenting there is a stillness that underpins each moment: we just have to learn how to access it. In doing so you can begin to open up a whole world of possibility to more meaningfully connect with your children.

Are you aware of the way you interact with your children?

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