Mindful parenting

Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK
18 August 2016
A baby laying on his dad's chest

If looking after your child feels like one more pressure in your stressed-out day, take a minute to stop and think. It may actually be the perfect moment to share the wonder of their world, and remind yourself that you’re actually a pretty good parent.

With the fast pace of today’s society, there are constant demands on our time. As a parent, there are lots of balls to keep up in the air; you’re juggling the needs of your child, helping them do well in school, and getting them to all their activities. All this alongside managing your other commitments – it can leave you feeling frazzled. Then you are bombarded with all sorts of information about how to be a perfect parent, which can leave you wondering: am I getting it right?

How mindfulness can help

When you’re feeling like this, mindfulness practices can give you opportunities to be kind to yourself, to slow down, to bring moment-to-moment awareness to your life. Mindfulness can support you in your parenting.

We can learn from our children, who naturally live in the moment. Mindfulness practices help us step out of our habitual behaviours and into the moment.

Here is an example. Imagine that you’re late for an appointment. You’re walking along in a rush and your child keeps on stopping to pick up a leaf, a stone or just to look at the wonder of a worm. Maybe you start to feel annoyed and you tell your child off for making you run even later for that meeting.

In a situation like this, mindfulness gives us opportunities to develop self-awareness. It allows us the space to notice our annoyance, to take a breath and to respond instead of reacting. Mindfulness reminds us that we have choices.

So here we go – these are my top tips for mindful parenting.

  1. Pay attention. The first thing you can give a child is your full attention. Switch off the phone, turn off the laptop and be in the moment with your child. Hear what they have to say. See what they are doing. Get rid of the distractions, and share the time and space in the moment. Two minutes of full attention is worth more than 20 minutes of your time full of distractions.
  2. Appreciate being ‘good enough’. Accept that you are a ‘good enough parent’. The perfect parent is a myth. This person does not exist. So cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself, see how far you have come in the journey of parenting. Recognise your strengths and remember what you do well. Even Mary Poppins only got as far as ‘practically perfect in every way’ and she was happy with that.
  3. Cultivate a beginner’s mind. See each moment as a new moment. The tantrum from yesterday is long forgotten in your child’s mind. See your child now, in this moment, and be present with what they are doing, saying and being. Just because it happened yesterday doesn’t mean it will happen today.
  4. Let go of expectations. Leave aside right and wrong, should and ought. Forget the tantrum from yesterday. Look beyond the behaviour and see the child. Each moment with our children is a new moment, so let it unfold and embrace it.
  5. Remember there is more right with you than wrong. That goes for your child too. We are all different, so stop making comparisons and embrace the beauty of the world that your child inhabits. See the wonder of the leaf, the stone and the worm. Remember how it felt to hold your child in your arms for the first time. Accept your child for who they are. Be kind to yourself, and accept yourself for who you are.
  6. Do it together. Your day is already busy so don’t add more work for yourself. What activities can you do together? Instead of asking your children to brush their teeth over and over again, do it together mindfully. Eat meals together mindfully. Take a walk and enjoy the outdoors together. Slow down and bring moment-to-moment awareness into your daily activities.

Finally, please remember nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable and time moves on. Your child will leave you one day, so enjoy them here in this moment. Appreciate that perfect parenting is impossible, so remember to breathe and take mindful moments throughout the day. Realise that you have a choice about whether to react or respond. Try this when you feel irritated about that messy bedroom or when your five-year-old asks the same question over and over. Try it when your baby cries in the middle of the night… again... and you are feeling so tired and frustrated. The tidy room and the silences in the house, both day and night, are spaces for the future.

Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak straight to a consultant. 

Jane Bozier
Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK

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