As a parent in Calgary, you want to do one thing for your children; bring them up the best way that you can. Raising children isn’t an exact science and very much of how you parent will depend on a variety of different things such as your child, you, the supports you have around you, your belief system and so much more…
Today parents are lucky enough to have a wealth of information at their fingertips. One internet search can return thousands of articles and books based on the best parenting techniques and with new techniques continuously being advertised, it can be hard to keep up. To help you keep up to date, this article aims to shed some light on one of the newest (and very popular) parenting styles…mindful parenting.
What is mindfulness?
Chances are you’ve heard about mindfulness by now. It has become one of the most popular therapeutic approaches and way to live life. Mindfulness is centuries old and originated in Buddhist culture. Mindfulness has been found to have a number of positive impacts including reducing psychological distress, increasing concentration, improving general mood, increasing confidence and self-esteem and providing the opportunity to develop self-awareness. When practicing mindfulness, you have two aims: 1) to focus on the present moment and, 2) adopt a non-judgmental approach towards your thoughts and experiences. When achieved, these aims helps you to move away from being on autopilot and begin to truly experience what is going on around you in a positive way. Mindfulness mutes all the “noise” (such as other tasks, worries, distractions) and lets you focus on what is important in that moment of time. We talk a lot about mindfulness at Your Counselling, take a peak here for more!
How is mindful parenting different?
Okay, so you’ve got your head around mindfulness, but what about mindful parenting?
Mindful parenting takes the two pillars of mindfulness…
1) being in the present moment; paying attention to everything going on inside and around you, and,
2) taking a kind and non-judgmental approach towards your experiences
…and applies them to your interactions with your children.
The goal of mindful parenting is to learn to be present with your children and respond to them in a kind and non-judgmental manner. This means not multi-tasking, and instead spending your time focusing on each moment with your children with no distractions and making sure you keep an open mind while doing so.
I can hear you thinking “that’s impossible! I’ll never get anything done”. Before you throw in the towel, know that this doesn’t mean spending every waking moment with your children and it doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to clean the kitchen, do some washing or (if you’re lucky enough) have some time for yourself. What it does mean is that when you do have a moment with your child, you make the most of that moment. You focus completely on them and the experience rather than letting other things distract you. This also means paying attention to yourself and any feelings or thoughts that might pop up for you.
What does mindful parenting do?
It gives you space:
Taking an “in the moment” and non-judgmental approach to your children, allows you the space to respond to your child’s behaviour (both positive and negative) in a thoughtful and calm manner. This can help to make the most of the best times and decrease conflict during the worst times.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be smiling and happy all the time. It also doesn’t mean that you have to let your child do whatever they want. What it does mean, is that you don’t allow previous experiences or emotions to cloud your interaction. If there is cause in that present moment to get annoyed, angry or to discipline your child, then these are valid responses (and even better if you communicate these emotions to your child). But if you’re only angry because last time you played together your child didn’t do things the way you wanted, then it’s best to put these feeling aside for now. This means that the way you respond comes from a more level-headed and informed place rather than just an automatic reaction based on past experiences.
It teaches you about your children:
Through mindful parenting, you force yourself to take a minute to experience your emotions (and the situation at the time) and not become overwhelmed with them. This creates a calmer space and the time to be able to truly understand your child and what they need in that moment (instead of just reacting on the first emotion that pops up for you). Kids aren’t the best at communicating their needs and often challenging behaviours are driven by an unmet need. So the quicker you’re able to understand the real need behind their behavior, the easier it will be to resolve any conflict and keep everyone in the house content.
It strengthens your bond:
If you’re not quite sold on mindful parenting yet, why not try a little experiment. Spend 5 minutes with your child doing something of their choosing. Try and practice mindful parenting during this time and watch how they react. Chances are, they will love it! You are such an important person in your little person’s world and when you provide them undivided attention, love, kindness and a lack of judgment it only strengthens that relationship further. A strong bond has countless benefits for your child including better emotional regulation skills, self-confidence, self-awareness, decreased challenging behaviours and lower chances of developing psychological issues as an adult. Who thought you could foster so many positive outcomes with just 5 well-spent minutes!
It teaches you about yourself:
It’s not only great for your child, mindful parenting also has wonderful benefits for you! Having to take that time away with no distractions and pay attention to things non-judgmentally means that you will automatically learn more about yourself. You may begin to understand your emotional responses to things better and see the mechanisms behind some of your not-so-helpful knee-jerk reactions to situations. Similar to the benefits this has on your child, these insights can improve your mood, concentration, emotional regulation skills and self-confidence. You may also find that you start to feel less overwhelmed, more centered and you might even gain a new perspective on things!
Something to remember when beginning to adopt mindful parenting is that like with any other skill, it can take some time to learn and will require practice and patience. There’s no “perfect” way of practicing mindful parenting and it can sometimes be a difficult concept to fully understand so it is often best learnt with the assistance of a professional. However, one of the best parts of mindfulness is that even small changes and a few minutes each day can create numerous benefits.
While on the topic of parenting in Calgary, if you are curious about ways to help your kids during COVID 19? Check out our blog from the summer exploring some practical approaches.
If you would like to learn more about mindful parenting and the benefits it can offer your family, book a consultation with one of our Therapists today!