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Mindfulness for Parents

It's so hard to stay calm when your children are pushing you to the limits. Amber Hatch, author of Mindfulness for Parents, has some expert tips on how you can become a calmer parent by bringing more mindfulness to daily family life.

We all know that parenting is hard work: it can push us to the very limits. When our children are clamoring for our attention, or shouting, or whining, it can be difficult to stay calm. At other times we find that we are not really engaged. We might get to the end of a storybook and find we can’t even remember what happened.

Our children are young for such a short period of time, and yet so often the time we spend with them is spent thinking about something else, or reacting knee-jerk to them in ways that make us all feel bad. Mindfulness can help us to keep calm and stay connected. It can help us parent the way we intend, and allow us to experience the deep joy that our children can bring us.

Here are five ways to introduce more mindfulness into your family life:

• Bring your attention to your breath. Our breath is always there, right from the moment of birth to the moment of death, yet every single breath is unique. When we notice our breath, it means that our attention is anchored in the present moment, rather than going over the past or planning for the future. By continuing to come back to the breath, every time we remember, we are increasing our ability to raise mindfulness. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle. This means that we can access mindfulness when we need it throughout the day – for instance when the pasta is boiling over and the baby is crying.

• Earmark particular activities for mindfulness practice. For example, when you read your child a story, or when you bathe them. Try to stay mindful throughout the activity, every time you do it.

• Find a “bell of mindfulness” something that reminds you to be mindful whenever you hear it. I used my children’s angry outbursts as a bell – which was the times I most needed mindfulness!

• Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, try to find a period of time when you commit to being mindful without doing anything else. You may like to do this sitting down with your eyes closed. Doing this every day helps you to “top up” your levels of mindfulness.

• It’s really important not to add mindfulness to a “to do” list and then feel guilty about not doing it. Mindfulness is something that can help you – it’s not something to beat yourself up about. Just start doing it right away – whenever you remember. Mindfulness helps us respond to our family thoughtfully, helping us see what is needed in that moment. The more the better, but even a single mindful moment may change the course of the day.

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