Mindfulness techniques for parents

Mindfulness techniques for parents

Parenting can be really frustrating and overwhelming. The burden of responsibilities, constant demands from kids can get on your nerves. Working on ourselves and prioritizing our mental health can make a huge difference in managing everyday parenting issues with kids.

Why do Parents need mindfulness in their lives? 

I’ve always found this one feeling really overwhelming. And that is the need to constantly be there. They need us all the time. There’s two things you could do. Number one is you could attend to all your children’s needs, and in the process get exhausted and overwhelmed. Because you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

The second option is to take your time, take a break, let your kids be by themselves till you are mentally and physically recharged again to take care of them. This is definitely the better option. But from experience, I can tell you, I find the second one more difficult, because it’s riddled with the mom guilt. And I literally feel bad for not paying attention to them. At some point we need to condition ourselves to put our needs first and mindfulness can help us do just that. 

What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a type of meditation, in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you are feeling in the moment. In simpler words, just sit down and let thoughts pass by without interpreting them or without looking for solutions. 

It involves many strategies like breathing methods, guided imagery, breathing exercises, and other practices to relax the mind and body, thus reducing stress. In this episode of my podcast, I have discussed mindfulness and its basics, and how you could be using mindfulness for making your children’s lives better. 

Mindfulness techniques (for beginners)

There are many techniques to practice mindfulness but the ones listed here  are great if you’ve never tried mindfulness before. So if you’re the overwhelmed parent, this one’s for you. 

1. Pay attention. 

I know it’s hard to slow down and notice things in this busy world. We have so many chores lined up on our list, and technically our day just passes by with mealtimes and then putting the kids to sleep again, and then doing your own work, then there’s household chores. So where is the time to pause and take a look at things. But that’s what we need to condition our mind to do.

So try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses. Touch, sound, sight, smell, and test. To put it into practice, here’s an example. When you eat your favourite food, take the time to smell it, taste and truly enjoy it. Don’t make eating just a task that you have to finish and go on to the next one. Modern parenting post pandemic has definitely changed. Here i speak to dr. Marcie Beigel from USA. She’s a behavioural expert and a parent coach.

2. Live in the moment.

Sounds cliche? Try to intentionally bring in open, accepting and discerning attention to everything that you do. Try to find joy in simple pleasures. By experience when I actually started mindfulness, I found this one to be the most difficult one living in the moment. On philosophy I read in the famous book by Dale carnegie- “How to stop worrying and start living” helped me a lot. It goes something like this- 

Try to live in day tight compartments 

For example, if you want to live in the present, you have to lay over the iron curtains on your past and the future. Because what’s in the past is already gone, what’s happening in the future is something that hasn’t happened yet. What you are doing now in your present is most important and that really helped me compartmentalize my problems.

3. Give yourself importance

Accept yourself, treat yourself the way you would create a good friend,in simpler terms,  take care of yourself. Now as mom, self care is almost negligible, or it’s actually absent on our priority lists. Let’s accept that, but let’s also try to improve that. So you could start by a simple skincare routine for yourself, a night routine where you are just washing your face, cleansing, toning, or maybe getting a massage from your spouse. Or another amazing thing I do is getting up in the morning and taking that 20 minute

4. Focus on your breathing. 

When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute, at a point when you’re really overwhelmed, can help. I would like to share here a very useful CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy technique that we teach our patients of anxiety. I have found it to be really useful when overwhelmed. 

So whenever your child is throwing a tantrum, or you are having a fight with your teen that seems to be going nowhere, I want you to leave the room, go and relax, sit in a place where there is nobody, close the room and start breathing. But breathe in a particular way. Take a deep breath, inhale. And with that, say the word “just” then exhale, say the word “this”.  Keep on saying “just this”,  with every breathing cycle that you do. 

Now what this does is, it’s going to concentrate all of your attention to the moment where you are, that is sitting in that solitary place, you’re going to forget all the fights that you had with your child, you’re going to forget the screaming and the problems that you have. And that’s what we need you to do. Why? Because remember what happens when you’re having a fight with your child or spouse or anybody. We get so overburdened with emotions that our emotional brain takes over and we’re not able to comprehend, we’re not able to interpret that situation and make a decision. 

From experience, you will know that decisions that are taken when we’re angry, or when we’re sad, or even when we’re really happy are usually reckless decisions that we tend to regret later. When you perform these kinds of behavioural techniques, or any sort of breathing techniques, they help you calm down, get over with emotions. And that’s when your logical brain starts working. A logical brain is the one we need to make proper decisions. Thus, you’ll be in a much better position to tackle that situation, that tantrum, which you had with your kid, than when you were totally overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Here’s another conversation with a positive psychology expert from USA Marykate schutt. Where we speak about the basics of positive psychology and how it can impact a child’s brain.

Mindfulness techniques in a snapshot

So let’s take a look at that, again, we spoke about four exercises. Number one was to start by paying attention. Look around you, look around the things that we’re doing, the tasks that you’re doing, say eating, sleeping, try to concentrate on just those and enjoy them. Second, we spoke about living in the moment where we got stopped thinking about our past overthinking rather, and not think about what we’re planning to do in the future, what we need to do, and try to live in the present, that’s going to stop so much of the feelings of overwhelm that we get just because we’ve put too many things on our plate. Tip number three, we spoke about how to accept yourself, and why it is so important to put yourself on the priority list. And number four was breathing techniques, the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy where you got to inhale and exhale, saying just this. 

Guided/structured Mindfulness techniques to begin with

1. Body scan meditation. 

So what is this? It’s nothing, it’s just being conscious about all of your body parts. See, before we start, I’d like to tell you, the basic purpose of most mindfulness exercises is to help you regroup your thinking, your decision making, and your attention spans to bring your concentration to one place that is in the present moment. The reason is, it’s a brain. It’s a body that we’re talking about. And that brain can do just one task at a time. For example you may be sitting with your child, and you might think, “yes, I’m spending time with my child”. But then are you really? mentally you might be thinking about the chores, the laundry that’s piled up, the food that you need to get prepped for tomorrow, or the meeting that you need to prepare for. 

What you did was you were present with your child just physically and not mentally tough. You’d be making him do his homework or engaging with your child. But then that’s not what we’re seeking. Let’s make it easy for our mind and body to be synchronised, that is through mindfulness exercises. So let’s take a look at some of the easy exercises that you can begin with. Number one is a body scan meditation. In this, you have to be aware of all your body parts, that is using your body to bring your attention back. What you gotta do is lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your side, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body. In order from toe to head or head to toe, whatever you prefer. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with each part of the body. 

For example, close your eyes and you start thinking about your hair, concentrate on the hair, then think about the eyes, then say when you come to your back, you might feel that yes, I’m having backache or when you reach your legs, you might feel that, okay, I’m getting a sensation of itching. Whatever there is, I want you to be conscious of it. Now doing this, for starters, do it for a minute or two. And it’s going to be enough because when you begin actually, your concentration doesn’t last that long. 

2. Sitting meditation.

In this you got to sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and hands in your lap. breathe through your nose, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. You have to focus on any sort of physical sensations or thoughts that might occur during your meditation. Just let them pass by, do not think upon them, do not interpret them, do not look for their solutions. 

3. walking meditation. 

Simply find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path down and continue walking again, maintaining the awareness of your sensations now about walking, I’ll tell you, when I initially started practising this, my thoughts would wander absolutely everywhere in the world, from laundry, to recording the next podcast, to my favourite food, everything used to come in my mind. 

I was wondering, this was supposed to relax me, why am I getting 100 thoughts, because that was the time when my body was physically not engaged in any work. So my mind got a chance to be overloaded with all possible thoughts that God could gather. So what I did was, try to concentrate as much on your walking your stride, your stance, the movement of your hands, your head, your posture, you know, if you were having a slouched posture, if your chin is down, you have craned neck from working constantly on your laptop, try to concentrate on your posture and your walking. So that’s going to help you distract yourself and keep the thoughts at bay. 

But what we actually aim to do this is distracting is very good, for starters. But then what the actual aim of it is, how do you know that you’re doing good at mindfulness, that this technique is helping you, that when thoughts just come and go by you don’t react to them? You don’t sit and think upon them, where you’ve not stopped? You’re walking in, you’re thinking about oh my gosh, what am I going to cook today? Okay, I really haven’t prepared for this project. No, that’s not what you’re here for. This time to work, to sit or to lie down is not for you to find solutions to all the previous piled up work or problems that you’ve had. You are doing this to regroup your attention to give your brain some peace, some relaxation, where it’s not thinking about something.

When you initially start putting mindfulness practices into your lives, you might get a lot of resistance from your own self thinking that you’re too anxious or you can’t see the point, why are you doing it? Or maybe because you’re not reaping any benefits. I’ll tell you just go ahead and try to be persistent at it. Try to pick a time and a place where you are dutifully and consciously making an effort at putting your attention to one thing because mindfulness has tremendous benefits that for a parent can be a huge thing. 

For example, mindfulness practices can help us to increase our ability to regulate emotions. They decrease stress, anxiety and It can also help us to focus our attention, as well as observe our thoughts and feelings without any judgement. So if you have a problem, if you have a fight with your husband, or something that you guys are not able to come to a solution, then this kind of practice will help you gain the necessary clarity. And you might even find the solution at the end of it. Still not convinced? Let me help you further. 

Let's break down mindfulness into two skills. First, is "what" and "how" skills, 

Understand the “WHAT and HOW” in your mediation:

“What” is what we actually do when we are practising mindfulness. So the first skill in this is to observe, we can OBSERVE internally or externally, for example, we spoke about internally, observing our body parts or concentrating our breathing, or externally while you’re walking, take a look at the environment, the outdoors. This is just noticing what we may see and hear, or what we’re feeling and thinking within ourselves. 

“DESCRIBE” the things to yourself

The second skill is to describe what we see or experience without any judgement. For example, if I’m looking at a picture, I would just describe exactly what I see, I would not state whether or not I liked the picture, or inquire about who’s done the painting, or whether I don’t like this colour. The third skill is to participate. This means to fully throw yourself into the experience. For example, when you’re dancing, you would allow yourself to fully dance while letting go of any inhibition or judgement or feeling of self-consciousness.

In a snapshot, mindfulness practices are those that will help you regroup, get all of your concentration back and help you be a better parent. Because you can control your emotions better, you can make decisions better, consider this as a first step in taking care of yourself. 

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter campaign which is a year-long initiative which aims at making a difference with our writing better known as Blogging with a purpose.

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