Is Mindful Parenting The Key To A Better Family Life?
We all want our kids to be happy, healthy, and successful; unfortunately, many parents are often confused about the best ways to reach those goals because of all the conflicting information on parenting out there.
Mindful parenting does not tell you exactly what you should do, but it gives you a framework for approaching parenting healthily that benefits you and your children. This article provides you with that framework. You'll learn how to respond rather than react to your children, get tips on building a mindful parenting practice you can stick with, and learn how to get your co-parent on board.
Shifting to mindful parenting can be challenging if you’re currently using another style, but there are some things you can try that may make the transition easier. Here are a few tips for switching to mindful parenting.
Pay Attention To Your Feelings During Conflict With Your Child
We all tend to react instinctively when emotions get high, but this is not being a mindful parent. The first step is being aware of yourself. You want to make a good decision about communicating with your child rather than yelling and closing off communication.
Learn To Pause
To avoid blowing up and yelling, learn to pause before responding to your children. Stop and take a few breaths, like you might do when meditating. You can feel angry without responding angrily.
It's easy to cut off a child's opinion when we are angry. But invalidating your child only builds a rift between you and them. Instead, try to stay calm and give the child the courtesy of at least listening to their opinion, even if you disagree.
What It Means To Respond Instead Of Reacting
You may have noticed a theme in the above mindful parenting tips: responding instead of reacting. Our bodies and minds are tuned in to stress and set to respond immediately, typically without thinking. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work out well when the stressor, or perceived threat, is a surly or aggressive child.
If your child does something like spilling milk on the couch, you shouldn't react like you would if you felt your life was being threatened. But your body doesn't distinguish the finer points of different sources of stress. Being stressed makes it more challenging to be attentive to the people around us, including our children.
Sometimes, children get the brunt of our stress response because they are not equipped to recognize and respond to a stressed-out adult. Your spouse or a co-worker, in contrast, may be able to realize that you're stressed and losing your temper and attempt to help you rather than feeling hurt.
A child, on the other hand, will only feel the hurt and not understand that you are experiencing stress. Your reaction may even seem scary to them. Not only that, but you are modeling to them how adults act when under pressure. This is all reacting.
When you pause, you can let the anger or frustration pass. Then you can make a conscious decision about how to respond to your child.
Why is this so important? Because children only learn how to manage their emotions by watching how you and other adults manage your own. Before you decide this is too difficult to attempt, know that no parent is perfect. We all occasionally slip up and react instinctively rather than being mindful.
What matters is the pattern you set most of the time. Your child will likely be more influenced by the dozen times you responded mindfully than the one time you blew up. The emotional explosion will be an exception rather than the norm.
How To Incorporate Mindful Parenting Into Your Family
Now that you understand that stress causes us to react in ways that we may not find to be our best responses, you can’t just avoid stress or teach your kids to leave you alone when you’re under pressure. Unfortunately, children quickly learn their parent's triggers. It's a part of their self-exploration and exploration of the world.
Here are some tips for incorporating mindful parenting into your family.
Learn Your Vulnerable Times
Everyone has a particular time of day when they are more vulnerable to stress. During these times, you're more likely to be exhausted and get angry easily. Start paying attention to when these times are for you. It may be in the morning rush of getting everyone ready for the day or after work when you feel tired. Or it could be a particular day of the week that is especially busy for your family.
You're probably less emotionally available to your children and others at these times. By being aware of these, you can respond thoughtfully. For instance, you can remind yourself to be extra vigilant about your responses during these periods. Or you could decide not to make any decisions or take any disciplinary actions during those times and, instead, postpone a discussion with your child if appropriate.
Learn Your Triggers
Certain behaviors trigger certain people. You can't change your triggers - the things that aggravate you more than other behaviors. But you can become aware of them to learn to stay calmer in dealing with triggered behaviors.
As with the vulnerable times, you'll need to practice recognizing what your child does that makes you angry, frustrated, embarrassed, or afraid. Then you can practice responding more logically to those encounters rather than reacting to your emotions.
Building A Mindful Parenting Practice
Once you know more about your instinctive reactions and emotions, you can begin working on being mindful of your child's point of view. We were all children once, so the best way to do this is to connect with your inner child. That may sound silly, but all it means is remembering what it feels like to be a child.
Think about how certain experiences felt to you as a child. Your child may not feel exactly the same, but they are likely experiencing many similar emotions. Think about the last time you negatively reacted to your child. How would you have felt about being the kid in that situation? How would you, as a child, have wanted a parent to respond?
Sometimes, what a child wants is not always what they need, but by tapping into those emotions, we may see better ways of communicating with our children.
In addition to being aware of your child's viewpoint, you must practice self-care. Self-care allows you to destress and reduce your vulnerable time and the degree of your triggers. Self-care may mean allowing yourself a break, or time-out, from parenting. If you feel a situation is escalating or going downhill, it's okay to excuse yourself temporarily to the bedroom or bathroom to sit and breathe.
Doing so does not take away the respect your child has for you. In contrast, it shows them that you are a self-aware person worthy of their respect because you acknowledge the situation and act intentionally. Remember that being mindful does not mean never getting angry or frustrated. It means recognizing when you're angry or frustrated and pausing to form the best response you can.
When It Comes To Embarrassment
Most parents are guilty of acting based on embarrassment from time to time. You're in the grocery store, and your child throws a tantrum, instead of communicating with them appropriately, you get embarrassed and make the situation worse by yelling at them. Just as mindfulness calls you to pause in making judgments about yourself and your child, you should also stop thinking about other people's judgments of you.
If you can be present and pay attention to your child's feelings, you can pause and form an appropriate response. It doesn't matter if other parents think it was the wrong response. You'll be forming a better foundation for yourself and your child and setting them up for a better future of managing their emotions, which is important. You'll also set an example for them to make the right choices based on their priorities rather than worrying about what others think is right for them.
Involving Your Partner In Mindful Parenting
Mindful parenting is a decision that you make for yourself. That said, it can be extremely beneficial to your family if all present parents try to practice similar strategies of healthy co-parenting. You can talk to your partner about mindful parenting and let them know that it is something you intend to practice and even that you would like them to do this with you, but it's best not to force them into cooperation.
Talking To A Therapist Can Help
If your co-parent disagrees, they may turn around after seeing the results you get from this practice. And if they don't, you will still be a calming influence in your home. Disrupting you and your partner will not be healthy for your relationship or your children. Talking to a certified family counselor can help you with your mindful parenting journey and mitigate disputes about parenting styles.
Online therapy is a great option for busy parents or anyone looking for something that is accessible and convenient. You can attend sessions from your home or anywhere you have an internet connection, and you’re matched with an available therapist when you sign up, so you don’t have to worry about being on a waiting list for an appointment.
Research shows that online therapy is just as effective as in-person treatment. Couples described feeling they could connect with their therapist and that most thought that the experience was positive and beneficial. If you’re interested in online therapy, reach out to Regain to get started.
Mindful parenting makes you slow down and respond instead of react. Shifting to this parently style can be challenging, but using the framework above can help you get there. If you need more support on your parenting journey or for any other reason, online therapy can help you live a more mindful life.
Frequently Asked Questions
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