7 Things Mindful Families Do Differently

Busy schedules, digital devices, long commutes—all of this leads to families who are disconnected from each other as never before. Here are 7 ways mindfulness can strengthen your relationships, increase your well-being, and bring the family back together.

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As the world gets seemingly faster, it’s more important than ever to build the strength of presence within ourselves and in our families. Our culture is sensing this need and that is why we see an increasing amount of people in all sectors of life exploring ways to become more grounded through yoga, diet, and mindfulness. This yearning is making its way into our homes as many of us have searched for practices and experiences to slow down and bring more connection into our family life as well. 

In this article, we’ve distilled down a list of seven things that we have found that mindful families do differently to help inspire you and your family to live a loving, connected life.  An embedded and essential component woven into each of these is the quality of our presence with one another. It is the foundation for everything. 

7 Things Mindful Families Do Differently

1) Embrace Imperfection 

No matter how many books we read or how much we learn, we will never be “perfect” parents – none of us! Because we are both psychologists and mindfulness teachers it is often assumed that we must be “perfect” parents and honestly, it’s not the reality. We still get triggered, overreact, and say and do things that we wished we hadn’t. While we have gotten better about this over time, the wisest and most important thing we have learned is to accept our imperfections as parents. 

Let’s be clear – you are going to make mistakes, you are going to hurt your children’s feelings, and you are not going to be able to show up in all the ways you want to or the ways your children want you to, but NONE of that makes you a bad parent – it only makes you a human one. When you can move into a place of acceptance of this you are able to shift into a greater ease and grace within yourself. When we beat ourselves up over our mistakes and imperfections we create more pain, fear, and disconnection. 

When we can practice loving, radical self-compassion and self-acceptance we are transformed and we are modeling for and teaching our children to be able to do the same for themselves and each other. 

We can’t think of a greater gift. 

PRACTICE: Take a moment to think about some way your mind is telling you that you’re falling short as a partner or a parent. Maybe it’s that you don’t pack the perfect Instagram-worthy lunches every day like you wanted to, you can’t make every presentation or performance at school because you work or it’s that you secretly don’t like playing (or watching) the same game over and over again with your child.

Now, notice the feeling that that belief brings up as you think about this. Be aware of any places of discomfort and apply a soothing gesture, just like you would to your child if they were upset or feeling shame. You can place your hands in a comforting way on your body this could be on your heart, belly, cupping your face, or even giving yourself a hug and say to yourself, “My mind is telling me I’m falling short, but the truth is, I’m doing the best that I can. I love my child(ren) with all my heart and give to them in so many other beautiful ways.” And let these words linger and let your heart receive them. Repeat this or any other comforting words of wisdom as many times as you need to feel your body soften. 

2) Listen with Curiosity

There are so many things, as parents, that we’re juggling moment-to-moment in our lives that it has become a rare experience to stop and truly listen to one another. We are often distracted – trying to do too many things at once, flipping through our phone with a false sense of urgency or rushing to snap judgments. All of this can lead us to lose our cool with our kids or our partner creating disconnection and misunderstandings. 

As we pause and listen to each other more in our lives, we can engage the experiences in our family with a growth mindset. We can see the struggles and triumphs as opportunities for learning and growth. Instead of judging each other, we can get better at recognizing when we don’t understand where the other person is coming from, lean in with curiosity and say, “tell me more.” Or we might try and stand in their shoes to understand their perspective by asking ourselves, “why might they be acting this way?” 

Listening with curiosity opens up more possibilities for fewer misunderstandings, more clarity and greater connection (not to mention better outcomes). 

PRACTICE: If you had a peek into most family homes you would hear the familiar echoes of “You aren’t listening to me!” When we get triggered, our armor goes up and it’s hard to listen and really hear each other. This week, see if you can catch yourself in a moment where you are planning a brilliant counter-argument while not letting someone finish their sentences. This is a sign that you’re not listening.  Once you recognize this is happening, the best place to start transforming the moment is with yourself.

Stop, take a deep breath, feel your feet, notice if emotions are rising within you and be gentle with yourself. And then proceed by making the moment very simple – choosing to be fully present and listening. You don’t have to have an answer in the moment, an awesome retort or even give them what they want. But you will likely be surprised by the transformative power of mindful listening with an open heart. 

3) Communicate Courageously

Let’s be honest, being vulnerable is hard and at times even scary, which is why we sometimes find ourselves avoiding tough conversations with each other. While in the moment it might feel easier to sidestep talking about something painful or uncomfortable, what is left unspoken and unresolved can turn into a slow poison. Over time this builds resentments, distrust, harmful behaviors, and disconnection. The truth is, being clear and honest with each other about what you need and how you feel is ultimately an act of kindness that creates trust and connection. 

This means showing up with our partners and kids with an open heart and an open mind. It builds on listening with curiosity and creates space for everyone to feel comfortable to share how they feel and what they need. Often the core issues in our relationships don’t stem from the content of the fights or disagreements but rather from what is not being spoken and not being healed. We cannot stress enough the importance of making repair after a rupture, misunderstanding, or experience of disconnection. This means that even when it feels hard and scary we come back together once everyone’s nervous systems have had a chance to calm down and both people can have the opportunity to feel understood and cared about, which leads to feeling safe, soothed, and reconnected. 

In coming together and communicating wholeheartedly, you may not always be able to give your kids or partner what they are asking for, but you are giving them something far greater – you are teaching them that it’s okay to be vulnerable, brave and empowered. 

PRACTICE: See if there is something that’s been bothering you but you haven’t shared. Take a few moments to get at the heart of the issue. What actually happened and how are you feeling? Maybe there’s an underlying feeling of frustration, sadness or fear. Now going a bit deeper and exploring what need(s) you are having that are not getting met like respect, understanding, space or communication. Now, with this preparation, see if you feel ready to approach your family member with openness and curiosity as you share clearly how you feel and the needs you have uncovered. 

As an example, “When I heard you demand that I take you to your friend’s house I got irritated (feeling). I’d like to be seen and appreciated for the ways I support you (need). Next time it would mean a lot to me if you asked in a kinder way and could say, “thank you” when I do nice things for you.

Of course, use this as a launchpad to play with having courageous communication and see what feels right for you.  

4) Practice Appreciation and Gratitude  

Being a parent is one of the most thankless jobs around and it’s not uncommon that within a family people can take each other for granted.  From the endless diapers and feedings when they are infants to the neverending meals, laundry, and taxi driving as they get older. Certain roles are assumed, spoken or unspoken, and small gestures of kindness can go unacknowledged. Here’s where little simple shifts can go a long way. 

While words of affirmation may or may not be your primary love language, we all want to be seen and appreciated and there’s a surprisingly simple way of doing this that can have huge benefits – intentionally practicing being appreciative and expressing gratitude to one another.  

There are so many small moments of opportunities for appreciation with one another, like acknowledging our kids or our partner for emptying the dishwasher or being ready on time. If we do small acts of appreciation it can shift the culture of the house from demanding and frustrated to cooperative and grateful. While it may seem silly or even annoying to thank someone for being ready on time – if this has been an issue for this person it feels good to be acknowledged when things are going well. In our house, we make it a practice to thank whoever prepared dinner. This creates a small pause of gratitude for the family and sets a much kinder tone for a shared meal together. 

PRACTICE: As you go through this next week, see if you can show your appreciation more intentionally. Like anything else, it’s often contagious and you may just start being appreciated more as well. It’s often easier to start small so choose something that you na