Parenting is challenging under routine circumstances, much less during a global pandemic. As we navigate this time of stress and uncertainty, bringing mindfulness to how we parent can support the well-being of our children, as well as our own sense of equanimity. How we mindfully raise our children varies based on ages and temperaments, as well as the particular dynamics and challenges within each family. But here are some starting points that we can all try to bring a little more awareness into our daily parenting routines.
- Begin with you: It is always helpful to remember that our kids are watching us, and are much more likely to model what we do, rather than what we ask or tell them to do. The more we integrate mindfulness into our own lives, the more our children will take note. This might mean letting your children see you meditate, even if they aren’t meditating with you. Or, it may mean putting away your devices during dinner, and enjoying your meal with the full presence of all your senses, while the kids look on. These small moments can be powerful, as our children are always taking note of our behaviors and choices.
- Check in with feelings: We are all experiencing powerful emotions right now, ranging from fear and sadness, to anger and frustration, to loss and grief, to moments of joy and connection. Mindfulness shows us that we can sit with the entire range of our emotional experience, and fully be with all emotions. We can watch our emotions rise and fall, come and go, without being consumed or overtaken by them. It can be helpful to set aside time to discuss feelings as a family. This can happen casually during a brief walk, over a meal, or while the kids settle down for bed. If we observe any behavioral changes or persistent mood shifts in our children, it is especially important for us to check in with what emotions they are experiencing, and to let them know you are a safe space for them to share.
- Slow down: As most of us remain mostly at home, or with a significantly altered version of our usual lifestyle, we might find ourselves struggling with a new, slower pace. Perhaps it feels like we aren’t being “productive,” or we miss our usual routines and distractions. That being said, the slower pace of life, if we can settle into it, allows new opportunities for connection during the pandemic. With no sports, carpool, playdates, or with older children back at home, we can spend time together in new, creative ways. Consider creating time to bake, play games, go for walks or bike rides, watch movies, or whatever activities feel good for your family. Allow these moments to be safe, judgment free zones where kids feel comfortable simply being themselves. Being fully present and connected with one another, in an open, non judgmental way, even for a brief moment, is a rare gift to be treasured.
Our mindfulness practices give us the strength and wisdom to meet challenging moments with open-heartedness. It is exactly these types of moments that we have been practicing for, on and off the cushion. Taking steady and consistent steps towards global positive change, begins with presence and kindness towards ourselves and our children. Even small intentional steps towards mindfulness in the home, can change us, our future generations, and the world around us.