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Can mindfulness help with parenting?

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Every parent has days when nothing seems to be going right. Those days when, face contorted by stubborn determination, the two-year-old refuses to leave the house for nursery. Days when the seven-year-old reacts with rage after losing a football match and the teenager tells you they hate you. Even the most loving parent can find it tough controlling their own emotions when the day descends into a battle of wills. Yet these are the times when controlling our own emotions is precisely what we need to do. Can something as straightforward as mindfulness really help?

What does the science say?

Studies have shown that after just eight weeks of regular mindfulness classes and practice, the area of the brain associated with stress can become less active and the area associated with feelings of compassion, tranquillity and acceptance might measurably develop. It’s extraordinary!

I can face anything in the day if I could just get more sleep

It’s so much easier to control our emotions during the day if we’re not ragged with exhaustion after a poor night’s sleep. If insomnia is an issue for you, as well as improving your sleep hygiene by cutting down on caffeine, ditching late-night snacks and getting up at the same time every morning, you might try setting yourself a one-week mindfulness challenge. For seven days challenge yourself to do one formal practice at any point during the day, even just for ten minutes. See whether this improves the length and quality of your sleep. You might be surprised by the results.

Feeling more positive from within

Regular formal and informal mindfulness practice really can help with controlling the emotions in stressful situations. Those who make an effort to live more mindfully may start to notice a change in the way they react to negative situations and increased feelings of acceptance and positivity. If you can bring these changes into your own life, those around you, including the children will gradually start to mirror your new positive attitudes. Mindfulness is about so much more than simple stress reduction. It can be life-changing.

Being fully present in the moment

21st-century life puts pressures on us like never before. What parent doesn’t fantasise about having time away from the endless demands of parenting? But childhood is fleeting and once the children have left home we might look back on those moments with the little ones as the most important time of our lives.

Mindfulness helps us to fully immerse ourselves in the present moment. Any parent will tell you that their child behaves badly when they feel they don’t have their full attention. So next time you’re spending quality time with young children, put away your mobile phone. Notice when your mind wanders away from whatever activity you’re sharing with the little ones and gently bring your attention back to the present. And enjoy the gift of precious time together!

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