Do you want to become more present around your children? If so, then this article is for you. When providing an atmosphere of mindfulness in the home, the child’s behaviors will be more cooperative. The outcome is that parents have more peace amongst the family members. Sounds great right?
Mindful parenting means being in the present with your child. Your children are home most of the time during this pandemic. So, they are relying on you to give them what they need for socialization through you. Think about this, how many times a day are you around your child and on your cell phone distracted with work or social media? Or watching t.v. instead of interacting with your child? These times would be the opposite of mindful parenting. When we are distracted as parents, we are missing opportunities to bond with our children. Below are some ideas for bringing the principles of mindfulness to your family. Make sure both parents are implementing a mindful approach to parenting. If both parents are practicing mindfulness the energy in the home will change faster. There will be a peacefulness in the home and in each family member.
10 Tips for bringing mindfulness into your family life everyday
- Practice your own mindfulness
Come into the present moment throughout the day. At least 5 times a day. Pause and think about whatever you are doing during that moment. Let your thoughts about anything else leave you like clouds in the sky. Practice in this moment to pay attention to your breath. Notice what sensations you are feeling inside.
- Teach your children mindfulness
There are great children’s books to introduce the idea to them. Peaceful Piggy (appropriate for 4-8 years old) and Sitting Like a Frog (appropriate for ages 7-12). For teens the book The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress ONe Moment at a Time or The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are. Teach them throughout the day to pause and be in the present moment. For example, take them outside, lay on the ground and have them tell you what it feels like to lay on the ground? Continue asking questions and be curious. Can they feel the wind? What do the clouds look like today? Are the clouds forming any pictures?
- Provide structure in your home
Younger children feel safer with structure. This means plan out an everyday schedule and be consistent implementing it. Especially during quarantine when there is no school, which means there’s basically no structure all day. Implementing is the hardest part. This is where mindfulness comes in. Focus on the schedule in the present moment, not the next meal or the emails you are getting. Try silencing your phone, and a tactic we used to remember to follow the schedule is, we taped our schedule up in the kitchen to review it throughout the day
- Mindfulness during mealtime
During meals turn off all electronics. Allow this time to be another opportunity to connect with your children. Ask open ended questions. We ask our children, “What was your favorite activity today?” or ”What was your hardest activity today?” Expand upon the answer by asking more questions. Be curious.
- Create space for bonding
Bonding through a parent-child activity called ‘time-in,’this can be through family game night or one on one interactions. Either type of ‘time-in,’ needs to have no interruptions of any kind including anyone’s phone. Create space for this uninterrupted time by putting all cell phones and electronics away.
- Implement a gratitude journal
Put a notebook in a common place with a pen attached to it. Ask the children before or after dinner to write in the gratitude journal. Parents can write what they were grateful for also. Put directions at the top of the page, such as, rite one thing you were grateful for today. Teach your children about their feelings including gratitude.
- Pause before addressing a situation
Part of mindfulness is being mindful of your reactions. Your child does something wrong, and you have a surge of angry sensations inside, pause. Release the anger, however works for you (except yelling or being destructive). Let the child know you will respond to the event in a couple of minutes. Then take some deep breaths, take a walk, get a drink of water, again whatever works for you, and then respond. Decide how you want to respond rather than react. Implement a natural consequence. Yelling is not a natural consequence. When we yell, we actually can cause children to go into a trauma response of fight or flight. Be mindful of your energy or facial expressions also. We want our children to feel safe at every moment. Everything they are doing has a purpose. It is our job to be mindful and figure out what they need.
- Figure out your child’s need in the moment
When your child is acting out, notice what your child needs at that moment. Usually, this acting out behavior is related to two triggers, either they don’t want to do what you are asking them to do, or you won’t let them do what they want to do. Be mindful and figure out what motivates your child in the moment, so you know what to reward the positive behavior with. See step 9 for more information. Children act out for many reasons. Your job as the parent is to figure out what is the underlying reason for this behavior. Are they seeking attention? Do they need something in the moment? Are they feeling a big emotion, and they need guidance on how to contain it or release it. Children will act out negatively when they feel they aren’t getting enough attention. In their minds, negative attention is better than no attention.
- Notice what motivates your child
Some children are motivated by stickers on a sticker chart, some of them are motivated by money, and others are motivated by a toy they want. Implement any kind of positive reinforcement. My younger children like the pom pom jar when we are consistent. This is the hardest part. The pom pom jar entails getting a plastic jar and arts and crafts pom poms (the large to medium size). We want them to have a chance to earn the reward. Every time your child is being positive with their words or behaviors let them put one pom pom in the jar. Once they reach half of the jar they can choose a small reward. Or they can choose to wait and get a larger reward if they fill the whole jar.
- Pay attention to the energy of your children in the present moment as well as your own.
Sometimes children will be very sensitive to a shift in energy between parents. Maybe there is a tone raised toward each other. The child doesn’t know what to do in that moment so they start acting out. If the energy can go back to calm so will the behaviors of the child. This happens with animals also.
A simple example of paying attention to energy. Last week, we were helping a woodpecker that couldn’t move by bringing it to the wildlife rehabilitation center. We put the bird in our car. I know this sounds strange but the wildlife center would not come to pick up the bird. So, we were mindful of the bird needing our help to get to the center. On the car ride there, when the children were loud toward each other, the bird started chirping. When I asked everyone to calm their energy and be mindful of the scared bird, we all became calm. Guess what the bird did when the energy shifted? Became calm. We were in the car with the bird for 30 min. The only time he chirped was the two times we were loud. We calmed our energy both times and the bird calmed down. This is why equine therapy can be a beneficial tool to teach children about their energy but that topic is for another day.
Remember mindfulness starts with parents practicing mindfulness by example on a daily basis. Then children will follow suit. We can not expect them to take on mindfulness if we are not implementing mindfulness.