When it comes to taking care of our kids, as parents we often think that means putting their needs above ours. We give up sleep and other essential self-care items with the thought that we can catch up on those things later after all the “necessary” items have been checked off our lists. It’s hard to not fall into this trap and I definitely have been guilty of it at times. But you have probably also noticed that when you do take the time to care for yourself, you end up having more to give to others as well.
Professionals who work with children can all attest to the powerful role that parents play in children’s mental health. Through practicing mindfulness, we are modeling for our children, and giving them a healthy example of how to peacefully interact with others, pay attention to the things that matter, experience the joy of living, and care for themselves.
We all want our children to experience happiness and positive relationships. We want them to develop healthy coping mechanisms, be in touch with themselves, and show compassion for others. We want them to become joyful adults and parents themselves (if they so choose). We can help set the stage for this sort of existence by showing them through example.
Since my husband and I have started practicing mindfulness, I do feel like things are easier and more joyful. Is everything perfect? No, of course not! We are humans and we make mistakes. Things don’t always go as planned. The kids sometimes fight. We sometimes lose our tempers. The house gets messy. Tasks don’t always get completed. In short, we are still a normal family. But now we have tools that we can use that we didn’t have before. We can recognize how we are feeling and when we need to calm down. We can choose to do things that soothe us and help us enjoy each moment more. Our perspectives have shifted and from this new viewpoint, we feel better able to navigate through rough waters.
Many of us still struggle with making that commitment to practice mindfulness ourselves. It’s hard to set aside time when the to-do list is so full. But consider this an investment into yourself and your children.
Picture how you want your kids to experience life and ask yourself if you are modeling this behavior now. Realize that when you care for yourself, you are caring for your kids.
Start with small steps. I recently started Susan Kaiser Greenland’s 30-day series, Mindful Parent Mindful Child: Simple Mindfulness Practices for Busy Parents, an audio book in which she walks parents through brief (usually 10 minutes or less) activities/meditations. Susan is an expert in mindfulness for children and a pioneer in the field. She too feels that our children best learn mindfulness when it is practiced regularly by the parent.
After 12 years of working with children in the school settings, I know how limited the impact of any intervention will be unless the parents buy in and practice at home with the child. That is why my classes this Fall will be concentrated on helping families come together to learn mindfulness techniques. The classes are designed to encourage family interactions and teach parents and kids ways to incorporate mindfulness into family life together.
The classes are offered during the day (for homeschool students) and in the afternoon. The activities are designed for kids age 6-12 and their families however, younger siblings often benefit from attending as well. I’ll be using games, stories, crafts, and other interactive experiences to create a playful environment in which whole families will learn strategies for living life more mindfully. For more information, please visit www.playful-minds.com