A major obstacle for me as a parent is getting out of my head and into the present moment with my kids. My mind is constantly abuzz with “to-do” lists and typical life stresses. In fact, I feel somewhat hypocritical writing about mindful parenting given it’s still a work in progress at my house. However, I believe learning how to stay in the moment as a parent is important. I’ve noticed my children respond so well when I’m fully present and playful with them, and if they’re happy, I’m happy.
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword these days, but practicing it does offer tangible benefits for reducing stress and increasing our ability to cope as caregivers. How do you focus on mindfulness in your roll as a parent? Below are 5 ways to practice mindful parenting and how it can help create meaningful interactions with your children.
Mindful Parenting: Be Present
It’s very easy to become caught up in the hustle of every day life. Carve out intentional time with the kids when you are playing and avoid trying to multitask with housework and the like. Strive to provide them with present, intentional time, even if it’s for shorter durations. Our greatest teachers in mindfulness are often children themselves, just observe how intently they play.
Focus On Your Breath
If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the things you aren’t accomplishing during playtime, focus on your breath. Notice the breath as you inhale and again as you exhale. You can place your hand on your stomach and feel your breath as it comes and goes. Focusing on your body can take you back to the present and away from any distractions.
Multitasking has become the way of life in modern society and while it is indeed a skill, notice what happens when you fully engage with one task at a time. If your mind wanders (and it probably will), just bring it gently back to the task at hand. You may find you can accomplish more and decrease your stress levels in the process.
Take notice of your body. Do you feel tension in your shoulders or your neck? What about your stomach? Notice the sensations in your body without judgment. Take a deep breath and visualize sending your breath straight to the location of the tension. Practicing mindfulness and deliberate breathing may help calm your body and allow it to remain focused.
Awareness Of Your Thoughts
Take notice of your thoughts. Are you thinking about something or has your mind wandered somewhere else completely? Recognize where your thoughts are and bring them back to the present moment. Cultivate a sense of curiosity towards your thoughts, but strive to keep yourself grounded in the moment.
A colleague of mine recently shared that one way she takes care of herself is to “cultivate awe” and the concept really stuck with me. When I am feeling particularly overwhelmed, I intentionally cultivate an experience of awe; for me it means connecting with the beauty of the natural world, or recognizing the inherent kindness in my community, or reveling in the simple and joyful interactions with my children.
Take a moment to slow down and pay attention to the wonder all around you: the beauty of a blooming flower, the sounds of cheerful laughter, or the changing leaves during Fall. Focusing on simple pleasures that make you happy will help strengthen your ability to stay present in the moment and find a sense of peace.
With regular practice, mindful parenting can start to increase your capacity to weather every day stressors and allow you to benefit from intentional time with your kids. I hope you find success using the mindfulness tips above and leave a comment if you’ve found techniques that work well in your life!
Mother with her child via Shutterstock