Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and within a few weeks schools will be ending and summer vacation will be starting. While summer can be a fun time, many parents begin to feel stressed when looking at having children home for the summer! With summer vacation comes both opportunities for slowing down a bit and the challenges of changing routines and keeping everyone happy.
Mindfulness practices can provide tools to make the summer less stressful and more enjoyable. Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to the present moment without judgement. Perhaps your response to this definition is “why would I want to pay attention to my kids fighting and how could I do it without judgment?” By practicing mindfulness we can allow for the pause in our reaction to the situation, become aware what is happening in ourselves and in the situation and then have a more thoughtful response. Mindful parenting is not about becoming a “perfect” parent but instead about practicing awareness of how we would like to be in the moment.
Four Ways to Add Mindfulness
Stop and Observe
Often we are so busy with our own thoughts we do not realize how our behavior is driven by them. By stopping and observing our thoughts we can respond instead of reacting. The acronym STOP can be helpful.
- Stop, simply pause in the moment when you notice stress rising
- Take a Breath, bring your awareness to your breath and allow your mind and body to settle into the breath
- O As you continue to breathe, notice what arises in your thoughts, emotions and body. What is happening in this moment?
- P With this awareness, take action in a responsive instead of reactive “autopilot” mode.
Developing a “Curious” Attitude
By shifting our focus from judging to becoming curious about our child’s behavior or a situation, we can develop a more playful or compassionate attitude. When we judge a situation in the moment, many times we are closing off the possibilities of what might be happening. Curiosity allows us to see many possibilities and work with our child to come up with what might work for them in the moment. Instead of judging why our child does not love Art Camp , become curious about the possibilities and allow your child to work through the feeling without needing to make it right or wrong or fix it.
Allow Yourself to Let Go
In Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla and Jon Kabat Zinn suggest
“re-minding” ourselves that our children are independent beings and separate from us. Developing healthy age appropriate boundaries with our child stops us from projecting our own unmet needs, dreams and issues onto them. Maybe I am enrolling in my child in activities that I always wanted to do even though they have no interest or feeling like I need to fix social issues for my child because I had friendship troubles as a child. Mindfulness allows us to separate what is ours from what is our child’s to create emotional separation. We can better guide our children with their choices when we are aware of what is happening in the moment for us and not project that to our child.
Make Time for Yourself
Mindful parenting depends on being more present and to do so it is helpful to take time for ourselves each day to sit and breathe to notice when our mind is caught up in the past or future and how that impacts us. This is not time to judge or work out our problems but time to just become aware of what is happening. When we give ourselves the chance to become present, we can then extend that presence and calmness to our relationships with our children.