It’s honesty time, moms and dads. You love your kiddos more than anything, but you’re at your wit’s end most days, right? Life feels like a high-speed chase in a runaway train headed toward a perfect storm of busyness, irritation and distraction. You’re keeping the train on the tracks, just barely, but you know it could veer off the rails at any moment if you start to lose your grip.
This frenetic, uncomfortable state describes daily life for many American parents, and it’s an incredibly stressful way to live. It’s also causing many of us to compromise on our parenting ideals simply in an effort to get through the day.
Luckily, parenting doesn’t have to feel like this. You can turn your runaway train around by embracing the concepts of mindfulness and mindful parenting; that is, an approach designed to make parents and their children happier, calmer and less stressed. Here are five tips to help you integrate mindful parenting right now:
1. Focus on living in the moment.
For busy parents who are always rushing from one thing to the next, it can be difficult to be fully present in any aspect of your life. Embrace the very essence of mindfulness by picking a few moments each day where you allow yourself to just be, rather than doing something. You’ll soon feel better able to focus on what’s right in front of you – namely, your kids – and find more joy in your interactions with them. If you feel yourself becoming distracted by your to-do list, make a conscious choice to be in the present instead.
2. Ignore emotional triggers. (This is how to stop yelling!)
When you’re focusing on living in the moment, you’ll be more in touch with your emotions – and with what triggers outbursts and yelling. You can still allow yourself to feel intensely annoyed when your toddler defiantly dumps soggy Cheerios on the living room carpet, but you can learn to control your response so that you handle these challenging moments in a more constructive way. The idea here is that you learn to respond, rather than react.
3. Learn the bedtime “body scan.”
Is bedtime the most challenging part of your day? If your child fights sleep or has trouble falling asleep even when you know they’re absolutely exhausted, bedtime can be stressful and emotional for both parents and children. The popular mindfulness practice of “body scanning” may help. Talk your child through focusing on each part of their body and releasing the energy inside so that they can begin to feel relaxed and let sleep come more easily. (Bonus: this can work wonders for adults, too!)
When we embrace mindfulness and let it inform our parenting, we can become happier, calmer and less stressed – and our kids can, too! Mindfulness won’t make you a perfect parent, but it may encourage you to be in the moment, control your emotional reactions and help your kiddos live less frantic lives, too.