If you’re a parent or caretaker, you already know how much you’re up against in today’s busy world. As you try to provide an enriching and fulfilling life for your children, you’re not only juggling their needs—their education, hobbies, and questions about complex current events—you’re juggling your own needs and responsibilities.
It can feel overwhelming.
Whether you’ve recently begun to feel this way or you’ve felt more and more overwhelmed over time, it might be time to consider incorporating mindful parenting into your family’s daily routines. While mindful parenting may sound like an entirely new mode of parenting that may be difficult to implement in your life, it’s surprisingly not. It’s all about slowing down and staying connected to those around you in the present moment, which can help both parents and kids feel calmer and better equipped to take on daily life.
What is Mindful Parenting?
You may have heard the phrase “mindfulness” in connection with discussions on mental health. Mindfulness is a technique many therapists and psychologists promote as a method of controlling anxiety and stress. According to Psychology Today, being mindful is, at its core, being present in the moment—not caught up in thoughts of the past or future—but fully experiencing what’s going on around you and inside you right now.
When applied to parenting, the article also explains, mindfulness can help both parents and children stay in the moment and connect on a deeper level, without letting stressors and emotions from outside the home or current situation damage the relationship.
How to Put Mindful Parenting Into Action
So how can you put mindful parenting into action within your family? There are a lot of approaches to mindful parenting and mindfulness in general. Grounding exercises, such as slowing down and using your five senses to help you remain in the present moment, are popular among therapists who use mindfulness in their work with clients. However, for any mindful approach to work, you have to do two things: hold yourself responsible for your triggers and bad habits, then bridge the gap between where you are and where you’d like to be.
Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be and who do I want to be as a caregiver or parent?” Do you want to be a more present and focused parent who leads a calm household in which everyone properly manages their emotions? If your answer is yes, then you should ask yourself, “How do I close the gap between there and here?”
To bridge that gap, you’ll need to recognize the key to change: You have to acknowledge your triggers and bad habits, and then hold yourself accountable for either falling prey to those triggers or repeating those bad habits. Maybe your trigger is your child’s tantrums, and when your child throws a tantrum, you fall into bad habits such as yelling at them or taking your stress out on your partner or spouse.
Once you have an idea of where you want to be, a plan for how to get there, and an understanding of which bad habits you need to replace in your life, you can more easily practice mindful parenting.
Mindful Parenting Practices
So how can you put mindful parenting into action? Here are a few easy ways you can implement more mindfulness into your role as a parent or caregiver.
1. Schedule in a mindful minute.
Wherever it makes most sense for your family—whether at dinner, during your morning commute, or at bedtime—schedule in just one mindfulness minute. For an entire 60 seconds, gather the family together and sit in silence. After the minute is up, discuss what everyone is hearing, feeling, and even smelling.
2. List three good things.
Likewise, gather everyone in your family together to list three good things from your day at a time that does not disrupt your current schedules. These things can be big or small, and anything at all—from waking up feeling rested to enjoying a particularly good snack to seeing a friend. Not only is it a good way to practice gratitude, but you may also find yourself looking for, and paying attention to, more good things throughout each day.
3. Be mindful about your parenting decisions.
A more challenging, but still valuable, mindfulness practice is to be mindful when you have to make tough decisions as a parent. Maybe your child needs discipline or you need to break some bad news. This is an opportunity to practice mindful communication. Arootah Life Coaches recommend taking these conversations slowly, pausing to respond rather than reacting in the moment, and giving your child in-the-moment feedback where you can.
Tips for Mindful Parenting
You can find lots of mindful parenting exercises, but no matter what mindfulness exercise you choose to explore with your family, make sure to pick exercises that won’t add additional work or stress to your lives. Likewise, don’t aim for a perfect experience, especially at first; remember, the goal is to be more mindful, calm, and present—not to add more stress to your life.
If you need to, use outside resources to become a more mindful parent as well. There are some apps that can help with this, such as the Personal Zen app as recommended by Psychology Today. You can also find related books by top experts, such as Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw, Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and Healing the Mother Wound by Bethany Webster.
The Bottom Line
Parenting and caretaking will never be easy but incorporating more mindfulness into your life can help you become more efficient, less stressed, and less reactive. When you cultivate mindfulness, you carry its benefits into all areas of your life—professional and personal.
Need more help with forming good habits and eliminating the bad, both in parenting and elsewhere in life? Arootah Life Coaches can help you clarify what’s important, build habits to achieve your goals, and hold you accountable.