Bringing mindfulness to the challenges of children can help parents to better enjoy the precious early years.
Parents can struggle to enjoy the present. Children fill parental minds with lists of things to do and challenges to overcome. Many mums and dads struggle to enjoy the moment they are in, even as they know this stage won’t last forever.
Mindful parenting brings the concept of mindfulness to our experience as parents.
When we practice mindfulness, we tune our thoughts into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than living in the past or imagining the future. This simple-sounding approach has been shown to have many benefits. Psychological research suggesting it can relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
How to be a mindful parent
Imagine you are juggling the children’s homework with cooking the dinner. You are longing for that time of the evening where you can sit on the couch for a few hours before you go to sleep, and it all starts again.
If you can practice mindfulness and be in the “here and now”, rather than trying to multitask or get through your immense to-do list, you may find that you can enjoy even these routine daily tasks.
You might choose to sit down with your child while they’re doing homework and look at this as time for you to connect with them and give them your attention. You might also enjoy a cup of tea while being fully present with your child, taking the time to be there for them and for yourself. Following this, you can turn your attention fully to the task of cooking. But rather than rushing the process and being on auto-pilot, you may be better able to enjoy this task too: the smells, the creativity, and the enjoyment of making a nutritious meal for your family.
When my little ones used to ask me to read to them before bed, I would often skip a few pages to hurry the process. I was tired and desperately wanted to get some time for myself. Once child number four arrived, I became more aware of how fast the time goes. Now I am the one who starts story time and loves to sit with my little boy and smell his hair, feel his soft skin and touch his warm body. I now find these times to be a blessing and enjoy being in the moment. Reading no longer feels like a chore.
Practice makes perfect
Mindfulness improves with practice, and it can be challenging for those starting out. But while mindful parenting doesn’t magically make things easier, it can help us to get more enjoyment out of things we often take for granted. This in turn can give us more of that energy we so desperately need.
This article was originally written by Sharon Garro and appeared on Psychlopaedia on January 30, 2017. You can read the full article on Psychlopaedia.