Helicopter moms, tiger moms, co-dependent moms, panda moms…okay the last part isn’t really true, but what is going on with all the stigmas of parenting nowadays? What is so wrong with a parent who always shows up at her child’s school event, make the costumes for the school play, and volunteer in her child’s classroom on a regular basis? Does that mean we love our kids too much or not enough because there will always be someone who comments that we need to do more, more, more! Kids will be kids for only a short while and once they reach their pre-teens, we’re lucky if they even say hi to us in the mornings. But fear not – a more conscious approach to parenting is on the rise and for those who ride the guilt wagon for their parenting skills will be glad to hear about this “new” movement.
In a recent article in Kiwi magazine (the magazine dedicated to parenting and good health), the article introduced readers to a style of parenting called, mindful parenting. Mindful parenting focuses on slowing down and becoming more attuned and sensitive to your child. It is essentially the idea of staying calm, centered, and focused on one task at a time in the midst of distraction and stress for parents who feel pressured to be perfect in every aspect of their lives from work to family. Mindful parenting is being consciously in the moment instead of branching out to all the million things we have to do to be ahead of the game. Parents can be quite competitive in the social and school settings and oftentimes parents feel the need to do everything every single moment of the time. And that, can be quite tiring.
The purpose of mindful parenting is to help strengthen the parent-child bond in a way that’s more productive and emotionally balanced for both sides. I, for one am always trying to find that balance and there are days when it’s either one way or the other. No one said being a parent is easy, but there are ways to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible. Mindful parenting derived from the foundation of Buddhism and is in fact, the essence of being mindful. It should be something we should practice in every possible aspect of our lives, whether it be parenting, doing our job, or socializing with people around us. With mindful parenting, the purpose is to create more harmony and reduce stress in the household.
Mindful experts outlined the main focus of mindful parenting. And they are:
FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING – Spend 5 to 15 minutes a day practicing mindful breathing. Pay attention only to your breath and train yourself to focus on one thing that’s occurring in the present. Practice this with your children and teach them the importance of using breathing to manage strong emotions.
OBSERVE YOUR CHILD – Take one time in your day to be fully present with your child. Be mindful of the moment you are there with your child such as listening to your tone of voice and seeing your child’s reaction. Being even slightly more mindful in such a moment—and less caught up in what you have to do next—can make a profound difference. This practice gives us a chance to get to know ourselves and our kids better. Expert Kabat-Zinn notes, “We’re waking up in ways that bring a richness to our experiences that sometimes gets lost.”
TAKE A BREAK – If you feel an upset coming on, take a moment to step back from the situation for both you and your child’s sake. Teach your child that if he/she is getting agitated to take 10 minutes to calm down and regroup after everyone is relaxed and more open to a productive conversation.
EAT TOGETHER – Practice mindful eating by discussing where the food comes from or eating slowly enough to notice the color, smell, and texture of your meal. Taking the time to appreciate your food leads to a healthier, more gratifying experience that brings the family together. It is also a way of slowing down and connecting as a family by taking the time to speak and truly listen to each other.
GIVE THANKS – When eating together, ask family members what they are thankful for. This brings focus to parents and their children on what is meaningful in their lives and what they appreciate in this world.
FORGIVE YOURSELF – Parents aren’t perfect. We will at times get angry or impatient with our kids. But we can learn to be more mindful in the future of how we react to our children and those around us. When we can learn from that, then we can be more conscious of our choices as parents.
So the next time you feel like a windup doll circling around the lives of everyone around you but yourself, remember that parenting is an ongoing lesson. Through experience and conscious efforts of how we raise our children, we can all breathe a bit easier when the teacher asks us to help make 30 costumes and we can actually just say…no, because we want to be there for our children, not for our parenting report cards.