Quick Tips on Maintaining Mindfulness

Katie McMorran, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Do you know that your energy totally affects your kids? It does! When you are tense, everyone can feel it. Whether it’s stress, annoyance, or frustration, kids pick up what you’re putting down. In fact, your energy may just be the reason they are acting out. What? Yes. It’s true. So, I am going to ask you – the parent – to model mindfulness: awareness of the present moment while maintaining your inner calm.

Am I really asking you to do something besides providing food, shelter, and all the awesome things you already do? Yes, because this is how kids can learn to respect themselves and others as well as learn how to work through conflicts that pop up in daily life in a calm manner.

How do parents model mindfulness? It’s not as hard as it seems. And it’s time to get excited because learning mindfulness will enhance your life by lifting your spirits, lowering your blood pressure, and improving your relationships while producing a calm household.

Three steps to modeling mindfulness

1. Start with awareness

Be aware of what’s going on inside you by acknowledging your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes we don’t even realize the baggage we’re carrying until we allow ourselves to be aware! Not sure if you have any baggage? Try this: inhale and squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold for one breath and release them down. Are they lower than where they started? Then, yes, you were carrying something on those shoulders.

2. Have acceptance

Accept however you feel and whatever is going on in your life. Pick up a journal or scrap of paper and write it all down. Don’t edit, analyze, sugarcoat, or minimize. Accepting what is doesn’t mean we have to approve of it or like it, but there is no peace – in you or your household – until there is acceptance.

3. Find change

Now that you’re aware of what’s going on, you can take a breath and just sit with it or talk about it with your family. Your kids want to know the truth about you, your life, and your feelings because they can sense it. It affects them! Just saying it aloud can cut the tension.

Ways to maintain your calm

1. Create personal time

Take time every day to stop and breathe and to do something weekly that feeds your soul. This may mean paying a sitter or asking a friend to spend an hour with the kids. It’s so important. As a parent, you have probably heard the saying, “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Although this might not be an emergency, remember to fill your happiness bucket. It’s much easier to give to your family when your own soul is happy. Get it on the schedule. Make it as important as everything else.

2. The three-second pause

I recently came across an article published on handsfreemama.com in which another mom recommended pausing three seconds before responding or taking any action with her kids. This prevented her from blowing up, from saying something she wished she hadn’t, and allowed for greater ease through challenging, stressful, or emotional situations.

3. Leave it at the door

When you’re coming home from work, find a way to let some of the day’s stress go before you greet the kids. We are creatures of habit, and creating a simple ritual can be very effective for this. For example, place your hand on the door for a count of five before you go inside. You could also touch a tree or stone outside and “give it away,” or take three full breaths and recite three things you are grateful for.

4. Move

Take some time every day to move your body. Take a walk around the block, do some yoga, go to a class, or dance in the living room!  This helps move the energy that gets caught in our physical body when we get stuck on emotions or thoughts.