Every parent knows that having children is a field ripe with emotions. Frustration, anger, boredom, joy, love, or fear—name an emotion, and it’s probably there on the wild ride of parenting. But this can also feel like the tipping point into insanity. When parenting becomes difficult, it is important to see that these challenges can be turned into opportunities for working with your inner reactivity. As your child (or you) begin to slip into the fifth meltdown of the day, or as you watch your mind check-out from reading the same book for the millionth time, mindfulness can help bring you back to a more spacious and vital sense of the present. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Alexis Santos offers four tips to cultivate a practice of mindful parenting.
Breathe Interest into Your Routine
Our attention is habitually attracted to “peak moments,” moments that seem pleasant, fun, or exciting. You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine? In instances where you want to zone out, bring mindfulness to the breath. The breath is a reliable companion, and it’s also always fresh. When you use attention to experience each breath as a unique and interesting event, you can ripen seemingly repetitive moments of parenting into ones that bring your attention fully back to the present-moment interactions you’re having with your kids.
You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine?
When breath practice is not riveting and you find yourself 100% bored, simply commit to the experience of being bored. Boredom can be a fascinating exploration when you are willing to feel it. How does the texture of your boredom feel? Where does it arise in your body? Using boredom as an exploration of present experience can add more zest to those moments, while simultaneously strengthening your mindfulness practice. Mundane moments can be useful times to step back and find a sense of ease, regardless of the monotonous circumstances.
Feel When You’ve Lost Your Cool
If you find yourself at the brink of unproductive anger, you are not a bad parent for losing your patience. This is a perfect time to check back with your internal experience and not act out. Don’t get lost in the drama in front of you—instead, pause and feel into your body’s reactions. Even if the pause is only a millisecond long, giving yourself space is a chance to see the emotion bubbling up and work with it with more awareness. Seeing and feeling the emotion helps avoid the situation from escalating, and it will support you to stay composed in challenging times.
Relax into the Imperfection
Most people feel that their sphere of responsibility has grown exponentially upon becoming a parent. You are the lifeline for the health and well-being of your child. While making sure they are safe, secure, and loved is absolutely paramount, it is also important to know your limits. Ultimately, there are many things that you won’t be able to control, no matter how hard you try. It is important to remember that life is not always predictable. Plates will break, tears will be shed, and difficulties will inevitably occur—this is the reality of being a parent and being alive. In these situations, don’t overextend your responsibility. When appropriate, practice letting go, and relax into the imperfection. You can find satisfaction and even gratitude in those moments if you give yourself a break to embrace life as it unfolds.
For more from Alexis Santos and Dan Harris, check out some free guided meditations from 10% Happier.