Three ways to use mindfulness as a parent to build and strengthen the connection between you and your child.
Connecting to your child may seem obvious or it may seem impossible depending on your situation at this time and in this place of your life. No matter your current situation, finding intentional connection to your children can make meaningful improvements for you and your children’s health and well being. Here are three small ways you can make a big difference.
Look into your child’s eyes when s/he is telling you something meaningful. It's easy to get wrapped up in our own tasks. We get used to the idea of multi-tasking and maybe even pat ourselves on the back when we are able to make dinner, pay bills, and listen to our child's stories about their day all at once. Sometimes though, it is important to do one thing at a time. When you recognize that your child is telling you something that is important to her, stop what you are doing and get down to her level. Whether she is telling you about something exciting that happened at recess or something that hurt her feelings in the classroom, something that scared her, or something she feels proud of accomplishing, take a moment to connect through the simplicity of eye contact. From here, all you have to do is give her two or three minutes before returning to your previous task. Ask her a question or two to demonstrate your interest in her experience, maybe even thank her for telling you about it. Your child might share many things with you over the course of the day and you might not be able to do this on every occasion. See if once a day is a reasonable goal for you to make this a regular interaction between you and your child.
Try a three breath hug to reset the situation. When things are difficult, slow down. It is easy to to get caught up in the stress of life. Just the other night, my son was feeling overwhelmed by having to complete his three spelling assignments in one night. The task felt insurmountable to him and he began to whine, even flail and kick his legs on the ground. His tantrum, in my estimate, was an overreaction, and therefore my blood pressure began to rise.My instinct was to redirect him to focus on his work and stop overreacting! His stress and anxiety was palpable and it started to make me feel stressed out; a chain reaction that could snowball into a very long, emotionally-draining evening if not stopped in its tracks. Instances like this offer a good opportunity to take a step back for a three breath hug, resetting the situation. It is as simple as it sounds. Go to your child, hug him and breath in and out TOGETHER, slowly, three times. When you finish this exercise, both of you will have a clearer idea of what to do next.
Make time to connect to yourself EVERY DAY. It is unfair and unrealistic to think we can connect to our children if we are disconnected from our own emotions and our own needs. This doesn’t have to take a long time, although I sincerely hope you are able to find a chunk of time each week to truly nourish yourself. As a daily habit, make it part of your routine to check in with yourself. Maybe even set a reminder on your phone. Choose a time that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s in the morning before you get out of bed, maybe it’s before you pick the kids up from school. Whatever time you choose, just take 5 minutes. Start by taking account of how you feel. Are you anxious? Are you rushed? Are you calm? Are you excited? Are you sad? Whatever it is, just recognize it, don’t judge it as good or bad. Then take a moment for three to five sloooowwww breaths. When you have finished your breaths, ask yourself: What do I need now? A drink of water? Coffee? Another few slow breaths? A phone call to a friend? Whatever it is, take that time for yourself and then go about the rest of your day. Intentionally making this a part of your daily routine will have a significant impact on how you are able to cope with the challenges that come your way as a parent.
That's all for now. The only other thing I want to say before I leave you is to remember to be patient with yourself. Don't expect huge changes over night. If you forget these ideas for a few days or a week or whatever, don't be hard on yourself, just find them again and start from there. You're doing a great job and it's going to pay off.