By Carrie Kubacki, Interim Family Living Educator, Langlade County UW-Extension
Can Parent Mindfulness Help Children?
By now, we have all likely heard about “mindfulness” and its ability to reduce stress, increase health and improve our focus and concentration. However, can mindfulness help in parenting and in raising less-stressed children? The answer is yes. Research being conducted at Boston University has shown that parents who use mindfulness have children who report being significantly less stressed as well. The study suggests that a parent’s own use of attention and nonjudgmental awareness can create those same qualities in their children which can reduce stress and reactivity.
Do I Need Mindfulness as a Parent?
We can ask ourselves the following questions to determine if mindfulness is something that may benefit us in our lives.
- Do you find yourself frequently overwhelmed with difficult emotions and physical sensations when communicating with your child?
- Are you often dealing with rapid, distracting thoughts and emotions about your child, self, work, home and the world?
- Are you rarely able to say that you enjoy simply being with your child or others in the family because of many responsibilities and distractions?
- Are you struggling with harsh, negative thinking toward your child or yourself that is affecting your relationships?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, mindfulness can definitely help.
How do I Build Mindfulness into Every Day Life?
You do not need to a lot of money or time to become more mindful. The skill of mindfulness is actually less of a “technique” and more of a willingness to be aware. One of the first steps is to recognize when you are not being mindful. Did you just drive 20 miles and not really remember any of it? Did you just yell at your child because of a reaction to your own stress? The next step is to stop and take a breath. No, this step will not magically take away the stress or solve a particular situation. What this pause will do is give you time to become aware of the situation occurring at that very moment and what your emotional reaction is. The final step is to use this moment of calm to think about possible solutions or actions that you need to take.
By slowly building in these “pauses” into our lives, we can learn to become more aware of the present moment, what is actually happening in a specific situation and our own emotional responses. We can give ourselves permission to focus on the here and now and to act and make decisions in a mindful and meaningful way. Our children will see these skills being used, will learn the skills and can then use them in their own lives to reduce stress. To learn more about mindful parenting programs, please contact the UW-Extension Office at (715) 627-6236 or visit www.mindful.org.