As soon as I had a child, people who already had them began telling me several times a day to, 'enjoy it,' because, 'it goes so quickly'.
Sometimes, battling through endless sleepless nights followed by tired, tantrum-filled days, I just wanted time to fly by faster.
But time flows on, and today's stresses become tomorrow's fondly recounted anecdotes. No matter the age of your child there are always challenges, and as we move through each stage there's a tendency to look back at the previous one and realise how good we had it.
Chaotic family schedules, differing agendas and conflicting opinions or advice can all cause stress. Parenting is a full-time job (on top of our other roles and responsibilities), but one with no motivational appraisals, nor promise of promotion to an executive role with more sociable hours. Of course there are bonuses though: one cuddle or belly laugh can soothe a tired head, and make us forget that we just spent three hours scraping porridge off the sofa.
Developing a mindfulness practice is undoubtedly one of the most positive things I have done for my family. Here are six ways that mindfulness can help parents to savour the sweet spots and sail through the storms.
Mindfulness helps you press the 'pause' button
Our auto-pilot setting seems useful at times; when you've done the school run and appear to also be dressed, yet can't quite remember how it happened. But it can result in days that blur into one another, and missing out on the little moments that give life sparkle. Being mindful enables us to pause, appreciate and imprint those moments into our minds.
Mindfulness improves our response to stressful situations
Communicating effectively with young humans requires depths of patience we never knew existed. They can push our buttons like no-one else, and it's easy to interpret their boundary-testing behavior as a personal attack.
Parenting, especially when we're being challenged, can bring up fears and negative beliefs that were born in our own childhood. By recognizing and addressing these feelings we are better able to empathize with our kids, and to respond with kindness. And in turn, their response to us will be far more positive.
Mindfulness puts us on our children's wavelength
Children, especially younger ones, naturally exist in the present moment. They don't have 'to do' lists; they do what they feel like doing. They're oblivious to the oppression of ticking clocks; they do things in their own sweet time.
When you're running late, a toddler that wants to stop and pick up every leaf on the path can be 'quite' annoying. But slowing down to their pace, even occasionally, opens our eyes and brings a fresh perspective to familiar scenes. Sharing in their wonder at the world can bring a sense of happy calm, as well as strengthening our bond with our child.
Mindfulness builds our resources
Nurturing ourselves is crucial if we are to support others. A regular mindfulness and meditation practice, even just a few snatched minutes a day, boosts our energy and positivity and helps to keep things in perspective. Better still, mindfulness can easily be incorporated into our everyday routine.
Mindfulness helps us to accept things as they are
Mindfulness helps us to accept a situation for what it is, in all its messy, imperfect glory. We learn to resist wishing that things were unfolding in a different way, or fretting about how to make them better: we can just 'be', and engage with the present moment.
Even uncomfortable circumstances can provide the opportunity to explore our feelings and learn from them, becoming less critical of ourselves and more tolerant of others.
Mindfulness helps us appreciate what a great job we're doing
Being mindful increases awareness of our actions and the feelings behind them. And once we're conscious of our triggers, it becomes easier to pause, reflect and move forward with a calmer outlook.
It's important to take time to appreciate our efforts and progression. Perfect parenting is an impossibility but any time we respond mindfully, and with kindness, we are officially winning.
And remember: just enjoy it, it goes so quickly.
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