Mindfulness is making me a better parent
This month I am thrilled to be participating in Mindful in May, a 31 day mindfulness meditation challenge. My 10 minute daily meditations are happily waiting for me in my inbox when I open my eyes each morning so I just click, get comfortable and away I go.
I signed up for Mindful In May because I wanted another opportunity to practice mindfulness and reduce my stress load (and because its a great cause!). I would never have guessed that it would make me a better parent. But, you know what? I have never been this happy, calm and present with my kids.
I tried to nut it down into a few coherent reasons why and here’s what I came up with:
I can zero in
This may sound weird but its true. After practising to focus my attention on different parts of my body during the body scans, on my breath during breath meditation and then on sounds and thoughts, my ability to zero in on what I’m doing right now in the present moment has taken off in a big way.
When I am talking to the kids, it now feels as though everything else in my immediate vicinity falls away and all that exists is myself and this other little person. I am looking into their eyes more, really hearing what they are saying and responding with more thought, more love and more time. Even when I’m so busy I could scream. And even better, I’m enjoying them more which makes all of us happier.
My irritability and frustration are shorter-lived
I don’t think there’s anything you can do to stop having bursts of super-charged emotion, short of lying six feet under. Especially when you have kids. Emotions can rise fiercely and quickly, like a sudden tidal wave crashing over you just when you think you’re safely splashing in the sun soaked shallows.
I don’t think there’s anything you can do to stop having bursts of super-charged emotion, short of lying six feet under.
What I am finding though, is that when I feel my anger, frustration or irritability arise, they seem to dissolve away a lot more quickly and easily. Instead of being caught up in thoughts of why this always happens, who’s to blame, and why my life is so hard, I take a few mindful breaths and suddenly I realise that the feelings themselves have dissolved and all that is left are my negative thoughts. And I am learning more and more to recognise them as just thoughts.
I can then tune back in to what is actually happening around me and more often than not, there’s some pretty good stuff going on that I would otherwise have missed.
I am responding to my kids with more compassion
Instead of reacting to every tantrum and jumping to conclusions about what’s happened, I am finding myself more able to withstand the pain of the screaming fit. Its like I’m in a bubble of calm. A contagious bubble of calm, that is. The calmer I am, the more quickly the kids calm down too. I can then really take the time to listen to their experience. You could say that my emotional rope is growing longer and I am less often at the end of it.
In becoming more aware of my own thoughts, emotions and sensations, I am also better able to notice and validate my kids’ feelings too. When I name those feelings, it helps us all to understand them better. And although it doesn’t necessarily make what they did right, the shared experience brings us closer and I can’t help but to be kinder, more gentle and compassionate in my responses, even if I’m being strict at the same time.
Mindful in May is ending soon, but I will be continuing with my mindfulness practices for a long time yet. I can almost feel my brain making new connections and slowly establishing new and better habits. I’m not entering parent-of-the year-awards yet, but I am slowly becoming a more aware one, a journey I am grateful to be on.
“Being a parent is one of the greatest mindfulness practices of all” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
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