There’s no doubt you will be familiar with the term mindfulness which is widely used, but what does it mean exactly?
It’s a way of living in the present, by bringing your awareness to your experience within a precise moment. The here and now. It’s about adopting a way of being, where you become better able to acknowledge and deal with stress and move forward with greater awareness of how you respond.
Mindfulness can transcend all areas of your life.
Adopting a mindful approach to parenting, for example can help a great deal with the everyday challenges that family life can throw at you. At the same time as helping you, this approach can also be observed and imitated by your child.
Reflect for a moment about a time you were stressed, the pressure was on as you had work and home pressures all in one go. Is there one specific time that comes to mind? How did you deal with your feelings and resulting emotions during that moment? And how do you think you communicated them to your children?
Here are some helpful hints to support you in becoming more mindful in those moments that matter most. To respond with kindness, and lead with love.
“I”-Statements and Avoiding Blame
One mindful method is using “I”-statements when faced with challenges at home or even in the workplace. “I”-statements are a simple way of altering the language you use when confronted with stress. They help mitigate any sense of blaming or fight response, and positively modelling emotional awareness and self-regulation. It provides a tool to help encourage positive communication of feelings, and also allows you to take a moment to look at why a situation is causing a certain emotional response from you.
Often, we say things like, “YOU left the house in a mess again, YOU don’t help at all and YOU are causing stress in our home!”
Instead, try, “I feel upset when I come home from work and the house is a mess”. Followed by “what I would really like is for us ALL to help out and share the load, so WE can enjoy our precious time together at home rather than feeling stressed and exhausted.”
It’s a really good method for teaching your child how to become aware of their feelings and how their actions can impact others. Think more observational and proactive solution-finding versus an expression of frustration and targeted blame. Taking a moment to think, show understanding and awareness of emotion, and express it in a calm manner, is a much more mindful approach than fighting fire with fire and acting on emotional impulse.
Take a Time Out
Another important thing is to allow yourself a time-out, just as you might teach your child to take a moment to reflect or have time to themselves. This may be as short as simply taking three deep breaths, making each breath cycle longer than the last. You could try this with your child to help calm them too. Having this shared experience could help support your child in learning this mindful method. It will give them time to open up about feelings, which increases their resilience and self-regulatory capacities.
Make it Fun
Make it fun for your child! Involving them in any method you try will help them engage and connect more to the practice. Try going around the house with them while placing a few small dot stickers strategically on things (bedside lamp, bathroom mirror, front door etc.). When you see a sticker dot, take a big inhale and exhale for a moment, become mindful, and relaxed, then carry on as you were.
This method of parenting is allowing your child to observe you adopting even brief mindfulness practices which can help build their own ability to call on the same things in times of need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Armstrong is a Yoga Instructor and Photographer, from London. She studied an MSc in Developmental and Educational Psychology and has worked for many years supporting children and families in their homes, schools and communities. She teaches adult, child and family yoga, and is a co-founder of a company called Here For You For Them, which provides online and face-to-face mindful parenting support.