Mindfulness can seem like an abstract topic. It is simple to think about but difficult to implement. However, when we can take small steps towards mindfulness, we can take small steps towards change in our hearts and homes. So, here are three small steps to move towards mindfulness in parenting.
1. Be present: Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Our lives, especially as parents, can get bogged down in details of our day-to-day tasks and what we need to do next. Our culture thrives on the go, go, go, but mindfulness calls us to slow down and be aware of what’s going on in and around us. When we start with being in the present moment, we can be more aware of our emotions and responses to our children, which is half the battle!
2. Shift your perspective: Mindfulness requires intentionality. When we are mindful of our emotions, thoughts, and reactions, we can take a much more proactive approach to parenting. We can address needs and behaviors outside of the moment, and in the moment, we can focus on emotional regulation. It is essential to see the need that a child is communicating through challenging behaviors. This helps us to approach these behaviors with compassion and understanding versus anger and frustration. For more practical advice, check out this video from One Big Happy Home called Proactive Vs. Reactive Parenting.
3. Breathe: There are many ways you can practice breathing to calm yourself before you react. You can do this in whatever ways feel most calming for you, but one common approach is to practice square breathing, where you inhale, hold, exhale, and hold for four seconds each. Some Fitbit watches also have breathing exercises as one of their free applications, and there are many phone apps that guide you in breathing and meditation as well. The key is to practice breathing outside of the moment so that you will be prepared when you need to get back to a calm state. Another way you can practice this is through breath prayers. Breath prayers are short prayers. A breath prayer can take many forms, such as Bible verses, names of God, or promises of God. The key is that you are able to say the prayer in one breath. These breath prayers not only bring you back to the present moment, but they also invite God into it. My go-to breath prayer is, “Jesus, be with me.”
Mindfulness is an invitation to slow down, to enter into the work that God is doing in your family, to pay attention to the ways He is working and moving within and around you. The goal is to find simple ways to find rest in Jesus. The more we are resting and being with Him, the more He changes us to become more like Him, the more we are able to remain calm and approach all aspects of parenting with compassion and understanding.
What small steps are you taking toward becoming a more mindful parent today?