Mindful Parenting: How to Respond Instead of ReactJan 31, 2023 06:06PM ● By Lauren Simon
Mindfulness allows us to engage with the present moment; not only as a meditative practice, but as a way of being. Research suggests that mindfulness can impact us both individually and in our relationships with others.
How can we bring this present moment awareness to our role as a parent?
Simone Marie from PsychCentral shares that mindful parenting involves focusing on the “here and now,” with yourself and your children at the center. The core features of mindful parenting include self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and active listening. According to Ashley Marcin from Healthline,compassion and non-judgmental acceptance are also key to the practice.
Marcin adds that this parenting approach sets the tone for how we respond to our children’s’ behavior, rather than react. Active listening and acceptance of others’ feelings and perspectives are mindfulness fundamentals that can strengthen these family relationships.
This can positively influence your children’s behavior and encourage them to similarly engage with this mindset, according to Marie. Academic success, increased mental wellness, and the ability to cultivate healthy relationships are possible benefits of the practice.
Wellness content creators, such as Natalie Franćeska, have explored what it means to parent from the heart space and how this enriches our interactions with our children. The heart space, when mindfully tapped into, is one of love, compassion, and acceptance of oneself and others. This profound connection allows us to foster balanced give-take relationships with others, too.
Our relationship to the heart space is also foundational to social-emotional learning (SEL), as children learn to understand their own emotions and socialize with others.
Founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) Jon Kabat-Zinn acknowledges the challenges of mindful parenting alongside its impactful benefits.
Surely, the practice can be easier said than done; a welcoming attitude of acceptance can be difficult to find in your most heated moments.
Marcin considers those moments that parents may know all too well; you’re frustrated that the baby isn’t sleeping, or that your child doesn’t want to eat dinner, or you are overcome with a wave of embarrassment when your toddler throws a tantrum at the store.
However, these instances of intense emotion can unfold differently. Jill Ceder from The Gottman Institute publication talks about how we can respond, rather than react:
● Notice what feelings arise when experiencing a difficult moment between you and your child. Accept these emotions in total awareness, without either rejecting or attaching yourself to them.
● Pause as you experience emotions, rather than immediately acting upon them. We are better prepared psychologically and physiologically to respond to challenges when we center our mind, body, and breath in the present moment.
● Listen to your child’s perspective and their experience of the situation. Although we may disagreewith their behaviors in some circumstances, how we regulate our emotions as parents may set the example for how our children self-regulate.
We might also “STOP” in our approach to mindful parenting:
2. Take deep breaths.
3. Observe your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
4. Proceed in responding to your child’s behavior.
Embracing a mindful strategy can help you diffuse the frustrating moments and allow you and your children a positive experience as you move through the emotions.
Lauren Simon is a freelance writer with a passion for holistic health and a contributor to Natural Awakenings.