Mindful parenting has been shown to help children with emotional regulation challenges, improve focus, reduce anxiety, and manage stress
So, what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you practice mindfulness, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. By standing back and being present in the moment, you create space between you and your experiences, which gives you more choice in how to respond.
Mindfulness is a skill that you can improve with practice, so you can be a better parent for your children
Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned and like all skills, it will improve with practice. Mindfulness is not a magic bullet that will instantly turn you into the perfect parent for your children, but it can help in many ways:
Mindfulness can help you focus on the present moment and be fully engaged with your children.
Mindfulness can help reduce stress, giving you space to step back and evaluate
Mindfulness can make being patient easier, by helping you stay calm even when you are frustrated or overwhelmed.
Staying calm as a parent
When you're in the thick of things, it can be difficult to remember that your child's behavior is not a reflection of your parenting. It's easy to get caught up in what you believe other people are thinking instead of using your own parental intuition on how to manage a difficult meltdown. Your child is unique and needs a unique type of parenting.
Practice how to stay calm
Be aware of your own emotions. This can be as simple as noticing what feelings arise when your child melts down. Notice, is it overwhelm, people staring, or unhelpful comments from others? Take a moment to let those feelings pass through without reacting to them. (This doesn't mean ignoring or repressing negative emotions; rather, it means acknowledging them for what they are and taking control, making sure that your response to a difficult situation is well thought out and appropriate.
Recognise that you can control how you respond to your child’s meltdown. Instead of focusing on how much something upsets you personally (which will only exacerbate matters), try instead choosing compassion toward your neurodivergent child’s behaviors. It’s hard being in their world.
Paying Mindful Attention to Your Child
When you pay attention to your child, you see that he/she is a person. Your has his own interests and emotions, fears, and desires. This is what makes every child special and unique.
Through the practice of mindful curiosity, you open doors to meaningful conversation with your child about what might be behind a behaviour. For the neurodivergent child, this could be simply that the brain is overloaded, and they are exhausted. They do not have the resources available to be able to behave differently.
It's important for parents to be curious and explore what’s behind a behaviour. If your child is unable to explain it to you immediately, then consider allowing your child a break before talking about it again.
Practice self-compassion and kindfulness
When you are busy being a parent and taking care of your children, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that you are also a human being. We all have bad days and sometimes we feel tired or stressed out. Sometimes we make mistakes. It’s important to recognise that mistakes are part of life and an opportunity for personal growth. You may be able to help yourself by practicing self-compassion: recognising your own imperfections with kindness and acceptance instead of giving yourself a hard time for not being the perfect parent (which nobody is).
Being kinder towards yourself and taking time for yourself, isn’t being lazy; it just means acknowledging when things aren't going well and that it’s OK. Being mindful allows us to put the circuit breaker in, create head space and react from a position of knowledge and understanding. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and your family.
Mindfulness is a good way to promote self-compassion and psychological wellbeing for the whole family.
Mindfulness training has been shown to be an effective tool for promoting self-compassion and fostering psychological well-being. It’s especially useful for parents who are overly stressed or struggling When you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, you can also help keep your whole family happier and healthier at the same time!
So, how do you practice mindfulness?
Here are some simple ways to incorporate it into your daily life:
Practice mindfulness meditation each day.
Take time to really focus on the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Try a mindful eating challenge with your family
Instead of listening to music or podcasts, try tuning into the sounds around you — especially the ones that normally go unnoticed, like birdsong, the noise of the wind, or anything really!
When you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Take it in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth. As you do this, focus on how the air feels as it moves through your nostrils and how the air feels on your tongue or lips as it passes by.
This is one of the most basic mindfulness exercises that parents can do with their kids (and themselves). It's a great way to help children learn about their bodies and minds as well relax before bedtime.
Walk the Talk and model the behaviours you would like to see in your child:
Be mindful of your emotions.
Be mindful of your actions.
Be mindful of your thoughts.
Be mindful of your words.
Mindfulness is a good way to cultivate psychological wellbeing. Mindful parenting is about being aware of your feelings and those of others and communicating openly with sensitivity. It’s also about taking time out every day to be present with yourself and the people around you.