How to be be a more mindful parent and improve your child's life in the process
What parent hasn’t been there: Your child is aggravating you so much that you respond in haste … and you respond poorly. But what if there were a way for you to take care of yourself so you can prevent outbursts and parent more in line with your intentions. Enter: mindfulness.
While mindful parenting isn’t an entirely new concept, it’s definitely become buzzy in recent years. That’s because mindfulness can make parenting more enjoyable — and kids may behave better as a result of it too.
Read on to learn more about the perks of bringing mindfulness into your home and how you can live and parent more consciously.
Self-care is paramount
One of the main components of mindful parenting doesn’t involve your children at all — it’s about taking care of yourself. That doesn’t mean that you always come first or that you jet off on a couples-only trip every month. Taking care of yourself can be as easy as squeezing in a few minutes a day to do something you enjoy, like reading or exercising.
Dena Farash, a New Jersey mom of two who launched the Mindful Parenting Revolution group, says today’s parents are overscheduled, distracted, and exhausted. This means they don’t take care of themselves, which spills over to their relationships and creates stress at home. That’s why, Farash says, self-care needs to be non-negotiable.
Respond to your children — don’t react
The strain and stress of our lives can come out in our responses; for instance, instead of explaining things calmly when our kids get under our skin, we lash out and later regret it. When we react in a way that fails to align with our intentions, it leads to decreased happiness.
“It feels crappy to yell and scream all the time. As parents, we should look for different ways to communicate — for our children, but mostly for ourselves,” Farash tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“It’s time for moms and dads to get back to what really matters … loving kindness toward themselves, toward their partners, and toward their children. Parenting from a place of understanding and mutual respect for their children. And most importantly, parenting from a place of fulfillment,” Farash says “We never show up for our kids the way we truly desire to if we choose not to show up in that way for ourselves. All the peace and calm you want already exists; you just have to be willing to go within to find it.”
Unplug from the rat race
Katerina Mayants, author of Happiest Mom on the Block: The Greatest Gift We Can Give Our Children Is Our Happiness, says another important aspect of mindful parenting is connecting in a meaningful way.
She believes that many parents go along with the notion that kids need to be constantly entertained or enrolled in activities. But it is acceptable to spend time together at home without any set plans — especially with older kids, Mayants says.
To savor human interaction, Mayants has spaces in her home that are designated screen-free. This, in turn, has encouraged family members to connect more with each other. It’s the kind of home environment she always wanted, and being mindful of it made it possible.
Her family turns off their tablets, computers, and phones at 5 p.m. each day. Like most of us, she says, sometimes her thoughts (and her husband’s thoughts) wander to the desire to check their phones — during dinner, for example. When that happens, they gently remind themselves that this moment belongs to dinner. That simple act of reflection helps them to practice what they preach about disconnecting from technology and connecting with each other.
Another way to be more mindful is to try to really take in the moments you do have — even in the midst of the pandemonium that exists in most households. Although you may not have a ton of time together, make the time count, Mayants adds.
“When you are with your kids, think about your kids. When you hug them, inhale them,” she advises. “Look them in the eyes and just enjoy that moment.”
More mindful parents are more mindful people
“Being a mindful parent is a lot more than just being present in the moment,” Mayants says. “Actually, mindful parenting requires mindfulness first within ourselves.”
Farash gave Yahoo Lifestyle a few suggestions on how to start practicing mindful parenting immediately:
Start your own meditation practice, even if it’s two to five minutes a day.
Pause more often, especially when you want to fire back at your kids. This gives you more time to think about the response you want to give, instead of the reaction based on your current emotions.
Do things as a person that fill you up. If that’s journaling, working out, or catching up with a friend — make time for it.
Kristen Fischer is a writer living at the Jersey shore. She is the author of Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids (SoundsTrue, 2017). Visit her at www.kristenfischer.com.
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