“Mindfulness” is a popular word at the moment but many people are confused as to what it actually means. Basically, being mindful is when we consciously bring our attention to what is happening right now, rather than being on “autopilot” or focusing on things that have happened in the past or things that we feel may happen in the future.
When we talk about mindful parenting, the focus is on both ourselves as individuals and our interactions and relationships with our children. Mindful parenting means we notice our reactions to situations with our children, then choose how we respond rather than being railroaded by impulsive emotions. It can help to ask ourselves the following questions1:
What is happening with my child in this moment?
What does my child feel?
What does my child need?
What am I feeling?
What do I need?
So what is involved in mindful parenting?
The first step of mindful parenting is selfawareness. Increasing your awareness of which situations evoke strong emotions in you, what emotions you find comfortable and uncomfortable, what thoughts or opinions feed your emotions, and how you habitually react or respond to situations and emotions. Our own experiences of being parented can have a huge impact on our current parenting practices, so it can be useful to consider what values, beliefs and attitudes are passed down from previous generations, and whether you want to hold onto those in your parenting or let them go. It can also be useful to discuss these issues with your partner as they too will come to the parenting role with their own messages from their past.Having this awareness is the first step in managing the way you handle situations.
One of life’s guarantees is that people and events around you will impact on you in some way, but being aware, or mindful, of these triggers can help you choose how you respond to situations, and foster your ability to connect with your children in more understanding, functional, and loving ways.
1Australian Childhood Foundation (2012). Mindful parenting A Bringing Up Great Kids