Did you know that practicing mindfulness can make you a better parent? It’s true!
If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time with your mind going in a million directions. You’re mentally making a grocery list, remembering that follow-up email you’re supposed to send, and then you suddenly realize you have to get a birthday present for that party next week. How can you possibly be present with your child in the middle of all that?
But if you can teach yourself to focus on the person directly in front of you, you’ll find that you’re more calm and able to actually connect with that person.
Hint: These skills are vital to work on if you’re postpartum and have an older child. The odds are you’ll still have moments where you lose your cool, but you’ll be able to function much better with mindfulness in your back pocket.
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Here, we’re going to discuss 3 ways to practice mindfulness as a mom, and how this practice helps you be a better parent.
How mindfulness makes you a better mom
Mindfulness can make or break a whole afternoon with your child. How can this concept teach you to use responsive parenting instead of reactive parenting?
Case in point: A week or so ago, I unexpectedly ended up being the one to pick up my oldest daughter from school. When she saw me, the first words out of her mouth were, “Can we go over to Nana’s and Poppa’s to do my art project?”
I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a “Hooray! I’m so happy to see you, Mother dearest!”
But I told her cheerfully, “Sorry, we can’t play go to Nanna’s and Poppa’s house tonight. We have to go get your brother and sister and then go home.” This started a whole dramatic ordeal in which my daughter’s world crashed down. I walked her past the other moms picking up their own cherubs from school as she bawled. It was awesome (where is my sarcasm font button?).
Honestly, my instincts in that moment were not Mother of the Year material. Ungrateful little kid, you could at least pretend you liked me. Honestly, I wanted to be snarky with her, because my feelings were hurt.
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But I thought about where she was coming from, how I wasn’t who she expected that afternoon.
Perhaps she had been thinking about doing that art project all day, and then there I was instead, blocking her from painting and creating. So I tried to stay positive, and after a bit we somehow made going to the pharmacy into a fun little adventure (you get adventure where you can!).
But spoiler alert: I don’t always stay calm that well when my kids are in a bad mood. And if you’re like me, you might also lose your temper when your kids act like this.
But what if, instead of reacting according to our instinctive, negative emotions, we stopped and evaluated our thoughts first?
How to use mindfulness to respond to our kids
The way to respond instead of react to our children is through mindfulness.
Many (most?) of us didn’t grow up talking about mindfulness. Any mention of it was probably related to those weird hippies who did yoga and clearly weren’t in touch with reality (but actually, I do yoga now. Maybe I became one of those weird hippie people…).
The secret? Mindfulness actually allows you to be more “in touch with reality” than you possibly can be any other way.
Seriously, mindfulness can help with stress?
The answer is YES, it definitely can, especially if you deal with issues like anxiety!
So how do you practice mindfulness when you’ve barely even heard of it?
Interview with a psychologist on mindfulness with kids
Dr. Marcy Rowland, a psychologist who spends a lot of time helping young mothers cope with anxiety, transitions, and life with children in general, was gracious enough spend some time with me here at EBM studios! Check out our interview below!
One of my favorite parts of talking to Marcy?
Discussing how each day is just practice, filled with new opportunities. Just like practicing an instrument, just like practicing a sport, each time you attempt mindfulness, you get a chance to try, observe how you do, celebrate wins, and clarify how you can continue to improve.
We are told often how we have one life, we get one shot, and we better not screw it up. And I get the idea of making the most of our time, I really do.
Let’s not get so hung up on the idea of “having one shot at life” that we feel the need for self-flagellation when we are less than perfect.
Because guess what?
You’re going to screw up. And that’s okay.
Your kids are going to be okay. You haven’t damaged them forever.
You will do better next time.
Ways to practice mindfulness
It helps to have some tools for mindfulness, so you know what to do when you hit a stressful moment. Here are some of my favorites:
A simple mantra, like You are more than enough, can make a huge difference in how you respond to a situation. If you’re stressed out, stop for a moment, take a breath, and repeat your mantra to yourself. Then deal with the situation at hand.
The Mindful Mamas and Connected Kids Action Pack includes several mantras you can use to stay calm with your kids. Make sure you subscribe for your copy.
Like “I spy,” but a little leveled up! In fact, you can practice right now.
Stop where you are. Look around. Notice 3 things you see.
Now close your eyes. Notice 3 things you hear.
What 3 things do you feel (maybe your clothes touching you, a breeze across your face)?
What 3 things (or maybe only 1 thing) do you smell right now?
Can you taste anything right now?
Taking the time to do “I sense” can totally change your mood. Whatever you were freaking out about before will seem less important.
Plus, you can teach your kids this strategy! In fact, just today I used this game with my screaming 3 year old (we only looked for 1 thing per sense, not 3). He totally forgot what he was tantruming about and was able to move on and play after this game.
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Journaling for moms
Journaling helps you think about your day, whether you use the practice to reflect on the day before or to set goals for the next day. In fact, I have a whole post on the benefits of journaling for moms.
RELATED: How moms benefit from journaling (and how to get started)
Yoga for moms
Yoga is hugely beneficial for the mind and body.
I’ve started exercising more lately, doing cardio and strength training. I know it’s supposed to release endorphins and improve your mood and all that, but you know what?
When I do yoga, I can feel a huge difference. I feel myself settle into my body, into my breath. And I feel much more prepared for the day afterwards.
If you don’t have a yoga studio available in your area, try somewhere that provides yoga over Zoom or another online medium. Just make sure you choose a program that promotes mindfulness, such as “kind yoga” or “gentle yoga.” You may also look for “hatha yoga” for the mind-body benefits.
Are you new to mindfulness?
It really helps to have a set of empowering reminders in your back pocket that you can tell yourself when you’re getting triggered. I’ve developed a FREE set of mantra cards designed to help you stay calm during stressful situations. You’ll find them in the Mindful Mamas and Connected Kids Action Pack, containing eight pages of strategies you can implement immediately to create more peace, both in your self and in your home. Join here to get the toolkit!