By Agnès Dupin, RSW, MSW
Parents have been asking me a lot about Mindfulness. Some parents are feeling the pressure to drastically change the way they interact with their child or their family routine to incorporate it into their life. Let me reassure you, there are ways to parent your child mindfully and you might already be doing it without knowing.
Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. In today’s fast pace world, it is not easy to be living in the present moment as parents we are often required to plan and therefore “doing” versus “being” in the moment. Our brain is on autopilot and I know how hard it is to actually be present with my children. Here are some tips that will help you:
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” Eddie Cantor
Setting you up for success and a positive mindful experience:
- find some times in the day with your child where you know you will not be pressed by time;
- be mindful about the electronics;
- be aware of your child’s feelings and your own.
This can be done anywhere, any time as long as you are purposefully present with your child – at home while playing together, cooking together or during any routine activities (cooking, dinner, breakfast, bath time, bedtime, etc.…). The activity needs to be adapted to reflex your child’s age and interests. While you are playing with your child, you might catch yourself thinking about what’s next, dinner preparations, tomorrow’s event etc. This is ok; just bring your thoughts back to the present, therefore your child and your joint activity.
Some concrete examples:
*Going to the Park
We now know the positive impact of being outdoors, and reintroducing nature into your child and family life as benefits. Whatever the season, as long as you are all properly dressed, going out can be fun and relaxing.
For younger children: Going to the park, you could be walking, seating or playing and decide to pay attention to sounds around you: what do you hear? Is it the bird singing, a dog barking or squirrels running? Now, look for the animals: what color is it? You might decide to look for flowers, trees, leaves…whatever is available in your surroundings. It might be your child telling you about an ant, a butterfly, etc. – then follow their lead, and go explore with them.
For older children: going for a walk (no cell phones allowed) can be very conductive to engage in meaningful conversations. Knowing they have your 100% undivided attention might do wonders to your relationship. They might start sharing about their day or what ever is on their mind. Or this could just mean being together in silence while being aware of your surroundings: fall is a beautiful time to go out and admire the changing colors of the leaves.
“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” Buddha
*Planning for down time every day: FREE TIME!
Yes, we all need it. This is inductive to being present now at this moment versus planning for the next scheduled activity. It is a time where, you with your child or only your child are engaged in free play. This will exclude TV, computer, tablet or phone time, which can be very stimulating, but not helping you or your child to be present. Find time to play with your child, ask your child what they want to play and follow their lead, their story, wherever it leads you.
*Cooking together: There is so much benefit in having our children participate in meal preparations.
This could be as simple as having them helping out while preparing dinner by describing, touching, smelling, and testing the different kind of fresh products you are using. Or, it might require a little bit of thinking beforehand and more time cooking if you decide to plan and prepare a meal all together. What ever their age, children can play a role, and you could both enjoy this time together. So much role modeling, learning, experimenting can happen. They might agree to eat something they have not tried before. A word of wisdom: be ready for some mess, this is okay as long as you are having fun in a safe environment.
“When you have children, you realize how easy it is to not see them fully, and perhaps miss all those early years. If you are not careful, you can be too absorbed in work, and they will be only too happy to tell you about it later. Being a parent is one of greatest mindfulness practices of all.”