Mindfulness means being present and bringing awareness and acceptance into each moment. It often involves letting thoughts pass without judgment and becoming more in tune with everything around you.
Mindfulness exercises can involve breathing, meditation, and guided imagery. It’s often seen as a way to reduce negative thoughts and stress and to relax the body and mind. These practices may be useful in parenting.
What Is Mindfulness Parenting?
Mindfulness parenting is including mindfulness exercises and practices into your routine with your children. This can help you and your children approach each day with more connection, acceptance, patience, and presence.
Mindfulness parenting helps you tune in to your physical and emotional reactions in everyday moments. One of the goals is to have more patience and acceptance with yourself and your children as you find a path that works for everyone's needs.
Impacts of Mindfulness Parenting
When you work mindful parenting practices into your routine, you may notice some changes in yourself and your children.
It lowers parental stress. Parenting is stressful, and much of this happens because of feelings of inadequacy. Mindfulness helps parents step back and look at their parenting style without judgment, freeing them to make changes. Seeking perfection, feeling rushed, and losing patience can add to stress levels. Mindful parenting exercises helps address these negative feelings.
It lowers childhood stress. Research has shown that children's stress levels can go up because of their parents’ stress. Managing your stress with mindfulness will benefit your children. Through mindfulness practices, children can learn skills that will serve them as they navigate life.
It eases transitions. Kids’ transition times include things like getting out the door in the morning, ending play time, getting ready for bed, and leaving a favorite place. For some children, these can be the most challenging parts of a day. They can be stressful for parents, too. This is when it can help to step back, take another look at expectations, and set a mindful routine.
It deepens family connections. Mindfulness is in large part about tuning in with your thoughts and emotions, as well as those of your children. Parenting mindfully can make you and your children feel more connected with each passing day. Responding to everyone's needs with patience and understanding can ease stress.
Kid-Friendly Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness exercises are not only for parents. Practicing mindfulness in front of and along with your children can help them remember and use these methods when they’re having a rough day.
Mindfulness helps children build empathy, ease anxiety, and work through stressful situations. It should be practiced not only during times of stress but also on days when everything is going smoothly so these new habits become more natural.
Naming your feelings. An important part of mindfulness is to express your thoughts and feelings and pay full attention to what’s happening around you without judgment. Try saying things like "this is hard" or "I feel sad," when appropriate, to bring awareness to a situation rather than pushing those feelings aside.
Breathing. Thinking about your breath is a way to ease tension and practice mindfulness when things feel hectic. Practice taking long, slow, deep breaths. Each time your mind wanders, try to bring your attention back to the feeling of inhaling and exhaling. With young children, you can ask them to pretend that they’re lightly blowing out a candle or blowing up a balloon.
Visualization. Practice closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and picturing yourself in a place that relaxes you. You can help children rest while you tell them a calming story and urge them to imagine themselves in the story.
Walking and other exercises. Many people find that when their mind begins to wander or stress builds, movement can help ground them and bring them back to a mindful state. Try going for a walk or doing a low-impact exercise like tai chi or yoga. There are yoga programs for children of all ages and some for families to do together.
Practicing gratitude. Naming what you’re grateful for and what brings you joy helps you reflect and practice mindfulness. Start a routine for your children to talk about what they’re grateful for every day at dinner or before bed.
Parenting mindfully can create a meaningful bond with your children and help them grow up more self-aware, with strong coping skills.