So you’re interested in mindful parenting (if you’re here reading this!). Perhaps the idea of feeling calmer and more connected with your kids appeals to you? Or you want to change your angry reactions to loving and wise ones?
So what has meditation got to do with being a mindful parent? Can’t I just do this style of parenting without sitting down to meditate? Good question.
So, first, let me give you a bit of an overview here. To be a mindful parent means that - as much as possible – we aim to:
- Be present and connected with our children.
- Be aware of our own reactions and choose wiser, calmer, more compassionate responses.
- Be less stressed and more relaxed with our kids (and in general).
If you often feel a long way from these aspirations, then these are skills you need to develop. To get skilled and automatic about mindful parenting (ie not having to think about it) you need to practice. Just like learning to play the piano or to play tennis. Like any skill, you don’t just change everything overnight – it takes persistence.
So here are the main ways to practice and get good at being mindful:
1. Meditation - sitting down (or lying or walking) and actively focusing on one thing (usually the breath) for a set period of time. It involves removing all other distractions, and actively trying to be focused and present. So sitting down and daydreaming doesn’t count!
2. Everyday mindfulness - taking short time-outs throughout the day to stop what you are doing and be present and focused and aware of how you are feeling. Even 30 seconds is enough. You can also do this by making whatever you’re doing a mindful activity eg washing the dishes, taking a shower.
Then, of course, you need to apply mindful parenting when you’re with your kids and things get challenging. So I would say the third skill you need to build is:
3. Understanding how mindful parenting works and applying it when dealing with your children’s behaviour and development. To build this skill you can read this blog, naturally!
Yes you can be present and aware of your emotional reactions without meditating. And emotional awareness is a skill we are teaching our kids too (and they probably don't meditate!)
But the reason we practice meditation is to spend sustained time building the muscles of awareness, focus, being present, and self-compassion. Kind of like going to the gym for the mind. You don’t just go to the gym for a 3 minute session, do you?!
And, perhaps most importantly, meditation is the only time you get as a parent to completely relax your mind and body and just let go for an uninterrupted period of time. Your nervous system needs to wind down when you’re regularly being wound up by the frustrations and unrelenting demands of parenting. It’s all the mental and emotional demands that are making you so tired (and the night waking, of course, if that’s your current lot!).
So practicing both meditation and everyday mindfulness is the ideal way to build up your skills.
So coming back to our original question - how can I fit this into my busy parenting schedule?
Here are some tips, which involve both meditation and everyday mindfulness.
1. Meditate every day, it doesn’t matter how short
Just make it your aim to meditate every day. It doesn’t matter how long for. Pick the same time or stage in your day to do it every day. It could be on waking up or before going to bed, or during your child’s nap time. Of course, more time meditating is better – but something short every day is better than an hour once a week. And you can build up over time. To get you started, here is my free guided 10 minute breath meditation for you to try!
2. Don’t set the bar too high and punish yourself for not achieving it!
Many of us who want to meditate – myself very much included – tend to set an ambitious goal and then berate ourselves every day we don’t achieve it. Especially if you’re a parent, just set yourself a manageable goal – let’s say 5 or 10 minutes per day - and make a habit of celebrating each time you reach it. If you forget and miss a day, just focus on the next day and make it happen then.
3. Decide when is your precious mindfulness “me-time” and make it a daily habit
Carve out a set time each day when you can truly be alone to meditate, relax and be present. Work out when the kids are asleep or at kinder/school etc and let your partner know this is your meditation time. For me this is the half an hour before going to bed – I get ready for bed and then sit down to meditate (I’m a night person so I don’t nod off at this time, but if you are likely to, then try earlier in the evening or morning).
4. Do 1 minute mindfulness STOP practices everyday throughout the day
A key everyday mindfulness practice is called the STOP Practice. (Did you download my free e-book? It’s explained in there!). These are great for parents because you can do them when you only have 1 minute to yourself. Basically it involves Stopping, Taking a Breath (or a few) and feeling the breaths fully, Opening to how you are feeling, and then Proceeding but in a wiser, calmer way.
Use something you see regularly to remind you to do a STOP practice, for example you could make the kettle a reminder to be present – every time you see it or use it. Or ever heard of the tip to put sticky dots around the house, the car etc to remind you to do pelvic floor exercises? You can use that for meditation as well!
5. Add in some everyday mindfulness activities – start with one a day
These practices involve doing the things you would do anyway but doing them with real focus and presence (ie. mindfully). And doing that one thing without multi-tasking (for once!). So choose one activity and do it mindfully every day for a week.
Here are some examples you could choose from:
- Mindful eating or drinking
- Mindfully taking a shower, washing your hands etc
- Mindfully washing the dishes, hanging out the washing etc.
- Walking mindfully
- Mindfully listening to your children or others.
HOT TIP: to do any of these things mindfully the best way is to focus on your five senses – feel the sensations, hear the sounds, smell the aromas, taste the flavours and really see the sights.
These practices can be done anytime, but as a parent it’s quite hard to get time alone to really focus and be calm. I find a mindful shower works well as I am usually left alone for at least a few minutes! And a STOP practice during each toilet break (if I am lucky!).
If you'd like to learn these practices in a supportive group and receive some lovely guided meditations from me, you can join my Feed the Parent online course! I'll also be running some free online guided meditation webinars very soon so make sure to join my subscriber list at the bottom of this page to hear about these.
I look forward to meditating with you!