Mindfulness is our capacity to be aware of the present moment through intention and openness (non-judgment). Noticing our internal experience connected to the external environment from moment to moment leads to a more complete and meaningful experience of our current situation.
Why? The goal of mindfulness is to understand our internal lived experience in order to create authentic acceptance of ourselves and our interactions with others. The ability to be mindful is linked to wisdom and compassion towards ourselves and others. This capacity is an important ingredient in successful parenting.
Parenting with mindfulness: Parenting is naturally challenging. According to the Kabat-Zinns who wrote Everyday Blessing: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (originally written in 1997 as one of the first parenting mindfulness books, re-issued in 2014 with updates) the purpose of parenting with mindfulness is to “live our moments as fully as possible, charting our own course as best we can, and above all, nourishing our children and in the process growing ourselves”.
Attunement: This would be evident in our attunement to our children – being present with their emotions and our own, without judgment or correction. Instead of being critical of them or ourselves – often applying limiting opinions and labels, we would be able to discern how much or how little would be necessary to deal with the next parenting crisis. This mindfulness can help parents balance their own needs with those of their children, both have a place in healthy relationships.
Effects of Parent History: Many people struggle in their parenting because they did not receive the attunement and acceptance they needed as children. Many parents who have unresolved issues of abuse and neglect do not realize the filters of thoughts and emotions that colour their interactions with their children. Parents who have dealt with their childhood issues can consciously change the inter-generational cycles of abuse because they have learned to stay, experience their pain, not act out, and have compassion for themselves and others.
Process: Mindful parenting begins with the individual: having done their own mindful explorations parents can experience the present moment, unsullied by previous struggles. This frees them up to perceive and interact with their children based on the current situation, not some unresolved past or future fear. By walking their own path towards wholeness parents create within themselves the capacity to enjoy their children just as they are. What a gift that is!
Honour Children: Part of this journey is to be willing to accept our children as our teachers – who constantly challenge us to find a peaceful, compassionate solution to everyday family struggles. I often joke that I wouldn’t have survived my step-children if I hadn’t been practicing mindfulness and acceptance. Of course, it doesn’t work all the time, but it helped me to choose to act from love and compassion more often than frustration and anger.