Posted by Dr Hayley Watson and Jaimie Bloch at May 18 2016, 11:15am
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs an adult can have. Sometimes, it feels like you’re being put through a tumble dryer, pushed and pulled in all different directions by work, family, your partner and more.
But there is a way to stop that endless spin cycle, at least for a moment. Mindful parenting is the conscious practice of taking time to become aware of your body and feelings at that very moment. Being ‘fully present’ helps you to assess your emotions and situation objectively and choose the best way to respond, rather than react.
The good news is mindful parenting requires nothing additional – it’s an internal shift rather than an external one. It doesn’t cost money and can be easily built into your day.
Here’s five practical steps for beginners to help find clarity in the chaos:
1. Learn how to ‘check-in’
Consistently checking in with your own feelings and sensations as well as your child’s helps you become more sensitive and attuned to the situation. This way, you’re growing the mindfulness muscle in your brain, and increasing your capacity for awareness of what’s really going on.
2. Use the Stop-Pause-Play technique
A simple exercise for ‘checking-in’ is to STOP-PAUSE-PLAY.
STOP: what you are doing. If possible, make sure your feet are firmly on the ground.
PAUSE: Breathe in slowly, right down into your belly, and then exhale completely. Take five more slow breaths and focus on each breath in and out. You’ll find your heart rate has slowed down, your breathing’s deeper and you feel calmer. It is the out breath that relaxes your body and grounds you, allowing you to feel calmer and think clearer.
PLAY: Respond to your child the way you want to. When you’re calmer, you’ll respond in a more thoughtful or considered way to your child. You will feel more connected to your child and more aware of their experience of the situation and how they might be feeling. This allows you to act in a calmer, more rational manner.
3. Schedule ‘check-ins’ throughout the day
Make it a habit to incorporate them daily where you can – when you’re eating, showering, driving the car, anything that you do regularly can become a place to practice mindfulness. Practice makes perfect!
4. Try it as a family
Checking-in can also be done as a family, at mealtimes or bedtimes. A simple one minute check-in where every member of the family notices what is in their body and what they are feeling can be a very simple and effective way to start building and growing this skill.
5. Keep a journal
After practising regularly, you’ll being to notice patterns in the dynamics of your family and children. Keeping a diary or jotting down notes on paper, in a phone, or just in your mind about what is working/what isn’t, and how you and your family are responding to different situations can really help.
For more smart, practical mindful tips from Dr Hayley and Jaimie, check out their MindMovers Psychology site.
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