As a parent, it can be difficult to manage the stress of raising young children, maintaining a home, a career, and even a personal life.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure how to break away from the compounding stress of early mornings, sleepless nights, crying babies, school pick-ups, messes everywhere, and all of the other not so fun stuff that comes with being a parent, you may want to try bringing mindfulness into your parenting style.
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your surroundings, emotions, and senses, without judgment or interpretation. It allows you to become more present, and it’s usually achieved through meditation.
In this article, we’re going to dive into mindful parenting and how it can benefit the entire family.
Read on to learn more.
How Does Mindfulness Affect Child Development?
Studies show that children who practice mindfulness are better able to act purposefully and with awareness to observe and accept their internal experiences without judgment. In other words, they’re able to identify and process their emotions at any given time, lowering anxiety levels and contributing to a healthier balance both mentally and physically.
This is because mindfulness has been recognized to promote the human behavior skills controlled in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This would include the ability to focus and concentrate, leading neuroscientists to suggest that practicing mindfulness through meditation can have a positive cognitive impact while the brain is still in its earliest stages of development.
Mindfulness is believed to increase flexibility within the brain, allowing it to shift in and out of different brain stages for enhanced emotional processing. This translates to being better able to deal with emotional situations, difficult tasks, and various stressors, bringing attention to lower stress levels, better self-control, resilience, focus and attention, and better academic performance.
For several years now, the practice of mindfulness has become incorporated in more classrooms from elementary to high school as a means to support students’ overall mental health and well-being.
A 2018 comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of mindfulness for mental health suggests that mindfulness interventions, in general, were beneficial to teens between the ages of 15 to 18. However, the impacts varied as they depend on the intervention’s delivery by external factors—such as parenting
What Does Mindfulness Mean in Parenting?
There’s more to mindfulness in parenting than simply being a calm parent who doesn’t yell and is always positive.
Mindful parenting means being able to manage your own emotions and behaviors—and modeling this management for your children. For example, it’s okay to be mad or feel stressed, but you need to be able to identify those emotions in the present so you can process and control them.
It’s like the old saying goes—monkey see, monkey do.
When you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, etc., you can’t be present for your children. Undoubtedly, young children will pick up on your behaviors, and respond to daily stressors as you do. Therefore, you need to regulate yourself so you can model the correct behavior for them to follow.
Being a mindful parent means that you’ll still feel all the emotions, good and bad. You just won’t act on them mindlessly in a way that could compromise your parenting.
When you’re able to practice mindfulness consistently as a parent, you’ll begin to see the following benefits:
- You’ll be more aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and needs
- You’ll be more aware and responsive to your children’s thoughts, feelings, and needs
- You’ll become better at regulating your own emotions
- You’ll become less critical of yourself and your children
- You’ll become better at controlling your reactions, avoiding impulsive behavior
- Your relationship with your children will improve
- Your children will become better at regulating their own emotions and behavior
How to Practice Mindful Parenting
The most important thing to remember when it comes to practicing mindfulness as a parent is modeling the behaviors of mindfulness rather than just preaching it.
However, you must keep in mind that children are still children.
Therefore, you can only expect them to act like children. This means that they won’t be able to manage their feelings immediately as they’re still learning how to regulate themselves. But that’s okay, as long as you don’t act like a child!
The key is to identify your triggers as well as the specific times of the day when you typically feel more tired, stressed, or preoccupied. Knowing what causes you to react impulsively and when you’re most vulnerable to these triggers will help you recognize and anticipate these moments, so you can better regulate yourself.
You can start by reflecting on feelings or judgments from your own childhood that cause you to react when your child acts a certain way.
For example, if you broke your arm climbing a tree as a child, you may act out of fear when your child is outside playing. Or, perhaps your child isn’t on the academic level you think they should be, so you feel like a failure because your parents reacted poorly whenever you got a bad grade.
Here’s what you need to do to practice mindfulness as a parent:
- Take notice of your own feelings when you conflict with your child, and let it pass without blame or judgment
- Listen to your child’s point of view, even if you disagree. This demonstrates important behaviors such as compassion, patience, and respect
- Learn to pause before responding in anger. Lashing out in anger when you’re triggered can have damaging consequences and only teaches them that it’s okay to respond to stressful situations impulsively
- Accept your child without judgment. Acceptance alleviates your children from the stress of needing to conform and be complicit
- Imagine your child’s feelings and respond accordingly. A two-year-old doesn’t have the same priorities as you, so when they can’t find their blankie and throw a tantrum, it’s probably because they need comfort and compassion
It’s no secret that being a parent is incredibly stressful. You want what’s best for your family, and you’re always going to worry about whether or not you’re raising healthy, well-adjusted humans.
By bringing mindfulness to parenting, especially when your children are young, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re raising mentally balanced and healthy humans. Mastering mindfulness takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience, but it works.