Reflections on Mindful Parenting from my 10-Day Vipassana Experience – Silent Meditation Retreat
Recently I attended 10-days of silence and meditation to enriched my 25-years of meditation practice. With absolutely no access to devices, no writing, no reading, no conversations or even communication with gestures, and 11 hours of sitting meditation daily. There were no distractions from myself. What followed was an interesting and a deeper learning of the impact of the mind on our current state. I came to consider how the practice of meditation and mindfulness can dramatically and positively impact parenting.
While any given daily event or life circumstance may cause discomfort, it is our mind that is the cause of our suffering. Armed with stories of the past or worries of the future, our thoughts remove us from the present – often leaving us anxious and much less able to effectively cope with what is currently before us.
It’s not news that parenting is fraught with distractions! Parents are running – literally…..to get ready for work while preparing the kids for school, drop them off (on time if we’re lucky!), work all day, rush home to take kids to hockey or piano practice, make dinner, ensure homework is done, and then crash on the couch once the little darlings are tucked up in bed.
Being and staying mindful and present is challenging when our daily routine can set us onto this “chaotic autopilot.”
Here are 7 tips that will help reduce the stress and set you on your path towards being the mindful, calmer parent you always imagined you’d be And can be.
1. Practice being present with your children.
Science consistently shows that relationships with family is a vital source of happiness. So, park your mobile phone on silent elsewhere and commit to 20-30 minutes daily of undivided attention to your children that isn’t a task. Do a fun activity of their choice, go for a walk or just have a cuddle on the couch. Set the intention to be fully present. That may sound simple, but be patient with yourself if it’s difficult to achieve at first.
2. Establish “unplug” commitments and norms in your home.
It’s important to make clear and realistic rules about TV, video-games and smartphone usage in your home. Enforce these rules consistently and model tech breaks for your children. They are watching you to learn how to be with technology. What are you modelling to them? Lead by example by taking healthy breaks from technology yourself and supporting them to do the same.
3. Your Meditation Practice.…. with your kids.
Meditating together is a great way to help your kids experience the benefits of meditation from an early age. Start with a brief guided meditation, say 5-10 minutes, and expand this together as they grow. The benefits will be long-lasting. And if you kids don’t join you initially, teach through modelling your commitment to a meditation practice daily. We know that modelling is the most powerful teacher for our children anyway!
4. Practice gratitude with your kids.
Expressing gratitude is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to feel calm and get present. Model this for your children. At the dinner table each night, have each family member give one example of something they are grateful for that day, no matter how small. This routine takes only a few moments, yet creates connection. Also, it may be a conversation starter.
5. Take personal time-outs.
With a house full of kids and activity family life can seem chaotic. Amid this, taking mindful breaks to re-center will make a huge difference. Recognizing that you are escalated is the first step. Removing yourself is equally as important to ensure that you get to communicating effectively and with kindness. This will not only benefit you, but also teach kids how to respond to conflict versus reacting impulsively. You don’t need to wait for a holiday or retreat for a timeout. Even a few minutes alone in a room away from others will have an impact.
6. Be aware of how you respond to the world around you.
Demonstrate compassion not only with yourself and your children, but also with the world around you. Breath and look to understand. Modelling and practicing compassion will help your children develop a calmer response to any given circumstance they encounter.
7. Self care.
As parents, it’s easy to be distracted from our own needs due to the many responsibilities we have for others. As a result, we sometimes forget to schedule our own self-care. Many of us even feel guilty when we try to take time to do the things that we enjoy. Recognize that self-care creates “a healthier, happier you” which in turn results in you being a more effective, healthier and happier parent. The result? Healthier and happier children and family!
Take a look back over these 7 easy steps and commit to a few at first. None are overwhelming and each supports the other.
Make time and take time. The rewards will be worth it…….