Since becoming a parent myself, I have often said that “parenting should definitely come with multiple warnings, big flashing yellow lights and sirens”. Whether you consciously decide to become a parent or perhaps you fall into that scenario unexpectedly, nobody can anticipate just how much their lives will change. Warnings alert you to the fact that you should be prepared to be able to love and care for another human being beyond your wildest expectations, that you should be prepared to always naturally put your child or children’s needs before your own, that you will have an incredible ability to want the very best for your little one(s) and that your life is about to change in so many beautiful ways!
I feel that this is why so many of us, including me, are always second guessing and questioning our choices and decisions as parents. Parenting does not come with a step by step guide or manual and a lot of the time we are just winging it and finding out as we go along.
Feeling such intense love and pride for our children can be so overwhelming and we can get lost in wanting the ‘very best’ of everything for them and continuously pushing and striving to meet their needs and wants. This then results in so many of us parents feeling that we are not good enough, experiencing parental guilt when things don’t work out how we had hoped or planned and that we are just wading through the water, trying to keep afloat in our daily parenting choices and abilities.
Mindfulness and Mindful Parenting has helped me personally to realise that my own children don’t need the latest iPad’s, tablets, gaming consoles, bicycles, toys, holidays and so much more! I have learned and realised that what my children do need is a parent who is ‘present’ in their lives, present in their own life, who is freely available for love, hugs, laughter, tears, encouragement, motivation, a friend who is always contactable and ready to listen.
My children don’t need a parent that is so overwhelmed by the pace of life, by trying to keep up with ‘The Joneses’, so engrossed in their phone, tablet, laptop or PC, unable to switch off after a day at work, bringing their work home with them, discussing openly in the home adult concerns, fears or worries.
Being more Mindful in my parenting style means that I firstly recognise the importance of my own mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing. How can I be present for my children and support my family if I am not present in my own life? I am so aware of my own ‘self-care’ needs and know the importance of taking time out every day for my rest, repair and recovery through meditation, exercise, good food choices and loads of fresh air. This is how my children learn the importance of self-care – through example.
Mindful Parenting enables me to be more in touch with my emotions and particularly the hard and fearful ones. It enables me to be upset, to cry, to ask for support, to explain to my children that ‘Mammy is feeling sad and upset today because of (whatever reason). Mammy needs to let her tears come so she can feel her emotions and then get some nice relaxation time outside or while walking’. By doing this you are teaching your children to listen to and feel their emotions, that all feelings and emotions matter and you are giving them the foundations to help themselves to feel better in any moment. You are mindfully teaching them to meet themselves exactly how they are and where they are and that all emotions, feelings, fears, worries and anxieties are ok and that they are a part of normal daily life.
Mindful Parenting is as much about nurturing and empowering your own mental, emotional and physical health as it is of your children’s. I love how Dr Malie Coyne, Clinical Psychologist and Author of ‘Love In Love Out’ describes how we can make peace with ourselves and can view our parenting styles as ‘good enough parenting’. Good enough in that when we prioritise our own self-care, self-compassion and bring an element of kindness to our parenting, we are helping to remove the guilt that we feel about our own parenting skills or choices which enables us to be present and available to and for our little one(s), whatever their need is in any moment.
A powerful quote I came across recently which signifies the important of a parent’s self-care and self-compassion to enable Mindful Parenting is:
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos”
So HOW do I practice Mindful Parenting?
The following is a step by step guide on how to practice Mindful Parenting:
- Always communicate to your child(ren) that you are readily free, available and present to listen to or help them work though or unpack their anxiety or their need.
- Lead by example! Let your child(ren) see how you practice daily self-care, self-compassion, kindness and love for yourself first. Show them the importance of taking time out for your own rest, recovery, repair and to balance and re-balance yourself.
- Whether you are dealing with a temper tantrum, a complete meltdown, a storm of attitude coming from your child, remain solid in your calm presence. Take a step back, take at least one balancing breath. This will give you the moment or two you need to ensure that you don’t get caught up in your child’s emotional storm or trauma and that you be present for them.
- Meet your child(ren) with empathy, compassion, kindness and understanding in any moment.
- Sympathise with them if they are upset being left out of a game at school or if they are finding it hard to fit into a group of friends. Relay to them ‘I can understand that this must be really hard for you at the moment and I can see how upset you are feeling about this, this must really hurt …..’
- Go to those painful places and moments with your child and normalise it for them. Explain to them what you physically feel in your body when fear, anxiety or panic is visiting you, describe the symptoms that you experience like faster breathing, quicker heart rate, sweating, feeling faint and so on.
- Be a friend to your child(ren). Yes, we need to guide our children and teach them life lessons, but we can do that in a friendly, fun, encouraging, empowering and motivating way! It doesn’t have to be all ‘sergeant major’ and no fun! Relax, laugh, play and have fun in the present moment, their moment.
By Leona McDonnell Mindfulness and Wellness
Check out Dr Malie Coyne for more information on ‘A Compassionate Approach to Parenting your Anxious Child’ and on her newly released book Love in Love Out – http://drmaliecoyne.ie/
As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 5/10/2020)