Nothing is more important to us than being a good parent, even though we are certain we are messing it up most days. While we dearly love being parents, our stress exponentially increases once that child is born. When we become parents, doing is no longer what’s important; fully being is. Making this shift can be difficult – mindfulness will help.
While I practiced mindfulness about two years before becoming a parent, it was only after my daughter was born almost three years ago that I have deepened my mindfulness to an extent I didn’t know was possible before she came into my life. Here are four ways I’ve found that mindfulness can improve your parenting and enjoyment of it. (If you are a parent of a newborn, save this and read it in the future. You may need to only focus on sleeping when you can. Be compassionate to yourself and know you’re doing your best.)
1. “Floor time.” This is a concept in play therapy that can turn around behavior issues instantly. Floor time is setting aside 30 minutes with no TV, no phones, or other distractions. You sit and play with your child, allowing him to lead the play. You give her yourfull attention, awareness and presence. This is an amazing meditation. You do not correct your child or even name things unless you are repeating what he says, (i.e., You can’t color her face green! Her face needs to be brown!). I often find myself trying to use it as a reward for myself if I get some chore done, but then I miss it or my daughter really needs the attention right then and not later. So, I suggest doing this as soon as you can in the day or when you get home from work. I sometimes need to break it up in 15 minute increments.
Here’s an article from Psychology Today describing this in more detail:
2. Notice emotions in your child and in yourself. Teach your child emotion words as soon as possible. I made a book with pictures of all of my daughter’s big emotions and describing what they are. We have happy, frustrated, mad, tired, sick, surprised, etc. When she was just a little over two, she could correctly name most of these when she felt them. She replaced many tantrums with saying that she was “frustrated” instead. While her feelings don’t always make sense, it helps me to know what she’s feeling and it helps me empathize with her instead of reacting angrily. Notice your own emotions-when you are hurt that your child favors grandma over you, when you are frustrated with your child putting up a fight every night during the bedtime routine, etc. By noticing my anger, I can usually stop myself from reacting and instead be calmly present with my daughter to help her manage her own emotions.
3. Get up a little bit earlier to have time to yourself. Or stay up late, whatever works for you. This may be working out (I am a muchbetter mom after I work out), reading, planning your day, etc. Spend at least 5 minutes in meditation. Be kind to yourself and open your heart.
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!”
4. Try this Momma Meditation. I started this during one of the hundreds of hours I’d spend holding my daughter while she was asleep because the second I’d lay her down, she’d wake up screaming. The time to try this is while nursing your child, when you are rocking him to sleep or when she is asleep and you’re letting her get into a deep sleep before laying her down. Start by watching your breath and not trying to change it. Are you holding your breath? Are you breathing shallowly? As you hold your attention on your breath, you’ll notice it getting deeper and more constant. Relax your muscles, starting from the top of your head, your face, your neck and shoulders, your arms, your stomach and back, and your legs. It is often hard to relax these, but muscles can be relaxed and yet flexed to support your child. Tension isn’t strength. Now turn your attention to your beautiful child. Notice her breathing and how it compares to yours. Notice his features and how perfect they are. Feel the weight of your child on you-from her head on your arm, to her fullest weight on your lap, to toe. Sensing this weight on me is usually when I feel a swell of happiness and deep love. Still allowing any other thoughts to drop, continue breathing and feeling your child’s weight. Then, send love and energy from the universe to both you and your child. I often picture a large, loving ribbon curling around us. Visualize what you are grateful for in this day with your child. Savor the perfection of this quiet moment.