Tips: Mindful Parenting: Going With the Flow
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, March 2008
For many parents, the resolve to be mindful in parenting often flags once the day gets going. Schedules can't stop, but you can flow with them. Remind yourself that the key to mindfulness is balance. Reserve and reinstate your energy. When you get close to the edge, breathe. When you feel yourself losing it, excuse yourself if you can and move your arms, shake your body, say a loud "HA" from the depths of your belly and the soul of your being. Regain your center and then return to "the mission." Instead of racing from one thing to the next, remind yourself to slow down and breathe.
Think about the following tips to help you stay calmer during the day after school through bedtime time zones.
• Change the Routine - Being in a routine can help stay on schedule but it can also become boring so spice it up a bit. If you pick your children up at school, come home via a different route from time to time. Pack some surprise healthy snacks and stop at a park, playground, or hop over to the beach and spend ½ hour running in the sand, playing on the swings or watching the shorebirds. Children love when their parents plan something special, so enjoy it with them.
• Establish a Daily Transition Ritual - In the "olden days" children would come home and change from their "school clothes" to their "play clothes". Today, many mindful parents take their shoes off when they walk into the house. Consider buying a shoe rack to keep at the door where you can place a variety of different colored slippers or "house shoes." You can create a ritual of having everyone remove their outside shoes and put on their inside shoes. Leave the dirt and the craziness of the outside world at the door. Act as if your home is a sanctuary.
• Stay in the Moment - When you are talking with your child, even if he or she is taking a long time to recount a story, stay present. Sit with them, at their level. Don't text message on your PDA at the same time. In fact, if the phone rings, let it go to voice mail if you can. The message you are giving to your child is that I am here for you at this time. This moment is ours and it will never come again. Let's not think about dinner as we talk about school. One thing at a time. Children generally need parents to talk with them slower than most people talk to them. When you slow down you encourage listening. You give the message that you respect them and are interested in what they have to say.
• Have Parent and Child Playtime - Offer some options for helping with dinner and bath and selecting a game or a book to read for pleasure during the after school, pre-bedtime ritual. Hide little toys or games and see the joy on your kids' faces when they discover them. Take a moment or two and play the game or a round of JAX. Tell a quick story or parable, enact a 3 minute puppet theatre, dress up in costume, anything to help you remember that being a parent can be fun and that you can laugh at yourself, with your kids, and at most situations.
• Throughout the day, be kind to yourself and to your children - Understand that it is never too late to begin again. If you feel like you are losing the flow, don't talk; hum. Gather yourself so that what comes out of your mouth is a reflection of your heart and your head; be mindful that you will not want to "take back" what you say (which, of course, is impossible). Remember to tell yourself that you are doing a good job and that you are a good parent.
Finding your balance in the daily flow of schedules is daily act of mindfulness.