CALM, oh how I love thee…
So how do we practice calm, patient mindfulness as we interact with our child?
The first and most important step is to Stay Calm. This may be easier said than done, but it can begin with a pause. Making sure that we pause before we speak or react can create an all important window of opportunity for us to steady ourselves before continuing. It is in these brief moments that we get to practice mindfulness. It allows us to compose ourselves even when we are feeling remorseful, fatigued or confused.
When you find yourself in a situation where you have to think quick, practice tuning into your body language and how you are holding yourself. Take time to notice and name the emotions that are flooding your body. Breathe into them as you build an awareness of how those emotions are affecting you.
The simple act of recognising how you feel can help to inform any subsequent behavioural choices. Staying calm is one of the most powerful gentle parenting practices to commit to, and I have heard some parents say that it is also the most difficult! We can’t be peaceful 100% of the time. We can’t be patient 100% of the time. When we accept this, we can begin to be gentler with ourselves as parents. We can see ourselves as human and give ourselves the same level of forgiveness as we give our child.
One of the most common questions I am asked in my workshops and coaching practice is, “How do I handle myself in the moment?”
Parenting in the moment is just that: in the moment. Having simple strategies, words or phrases to help practice mindfulness and staying connected to your child at any given moment can go a long way in easing overwhelm, stress and pressure. Indeed, it is during the most difficult times that we are able to gain the most benefit from practicing calm, consistent responsiveness. Character strengths begin to emerge, which strengthen our resolve and build our confidence.
Healthy, happy children push boundaries. As they learn and grow through the years, children need opportunities to investigate, explore and discover their internal and external worlds. When we create space for boundary pushing we gently give children a sense of their own personal freedom, and the knowledge that power is something that is shared with others, not held over them.
As parents sometimes we have to think fast in response to challenging situations. Parenting in the moment is a skill and one we get plenty of practice at, yet sometimes we might see it as pot luck on how it will go! Reflecting on what the best response might have been is easy when you have all the time in the world. When you have a second to think, when emotions are running high, when you have multiple children needing to have different needs met, when you having slept for what feels like years, when something needs to be urgently completed, or exhaustion and energy levels are running low, staying connected to ourselves and our children can be much more difficult.
This blog is to encourage you to practice the ‘power of pause’. When you feel your emotional triggers kick in, when you have those thoughts flooding through your head of reactivity, when you feel that you could lose your cool… pause. Here are 6 ways to practice the power of pause and bring more calm into your whole being and environment. While they appear simple, we all know blogs like this wouldn’t exist if they were easy to do.
- Catch yourself in the act of your emotions with “What am I feeling?”. And quietly answer yourself on the inside (or out aloud if you want to share with your child your emotions). Notice the feelings, make space for them without acting on them. It may sound like this “I am feeling furious”, “I am angry”, “I am so mad” etc… This helps you to tune inward before responding and brings a consciousness to the moment. It is a mindfulness practice that helps you to check in to pause.
- Breathe… hahahaaa. Yep, I hear you laughing. EVERYONE tells me to breathe. Well, not just breathe, because you do that to stay alive anyway. Breathe consciously, with mindfulness. Notice your whole breath. Count if you need to. Lengthen your breath on the inhale and exhale. Do anything you can to come back into your body. Connecting with your breathe can bring you back into a heart space. Breathe in 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 Breathe out 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6. Notice the inhale is cool and the exhale is warm. Notice everything you can about your breath.
- Walk away. You always have more choices than you think you do as a parent. You don’t have to act in the moment if you choose not to. You can say to your child “I’m walking away now to gather my thoughts” or “I need to walk away now to find some calm in my body”. All these phrases and choices help to model to your child that you are responsible for your actions and you are showing them one way they too can self-regulate. It could also sound like this “I feel really upset with you drawing all over the wall in crayon and I need to some time to gather my thoughts before I help you to clean it up”. This practice helps you to not only pause from the ‘in the moment challenge’ it gives you a way to yell, threaten and nag less, as it reduces the risk of over reacting or harshly reacting. Off course this strategy is only used if your child is safe for you to walk away.
- Be prepared. Have some phrases up your sleeve to be able to reframe and stay connected in the challenging times. This helps you to pause enough to be able REFRAME. When you have to think about the teachable moment or what it is you want to say to stay connected you can’t help but pause. Sometimes we feel our child is ‘out to get us’ and it can bring those feelings of them against us or us against them. Having some well thought up phrases that nurture resilience, respect and responsibility can be a savior for parenting in the moment AND when you use these phrases… you feel better.
- Practice mindfulness. Expanded awareness is a gift. When parenting in the moment we tend to go tunnel vision and only see the problem or the behavior. Expand your awareness. Notice all around you, the sounds in the room, the environment the whole space you are in. This expanded awareness lifts your head up and helps you to defuse from the pull of reactivity. It is a powerful practice and probably the most less used. Quite simple lift your chin up a little higher. Children are small, we look down. Notice how much lighter you feel with expanded awareness and it makes space for the much needed pause. You could put these two words on your fridge as a reminder. EXPANDED AWARNESS brings calm and the power of pause.
- Choose humour. Now you may be thinking… whaaaat?? How do you choose humour when you want to explode or cry, or every emotion in between? It does come with A LOT of reframing but it is possible and a wonderful strategy. However… it is tricky to focus on a reframe when emotions are triggered. One way to check in with humour is ask yourself the question really quickly J. “What’s funny about this?” Sometimes when we are parenting in the moment things are so heavy and serious, if we can catch the funny side, or the humourous side to what is going on, it can help us to lighten up, laugh at ourselves and pause to reflect on it later. This one definitely helps you to pause. Firstly you have to pause to think “what is funny about this”. My son recently said to me, ‘If you tell me the opportunity I have lost, I’ll tell you if it is worth me doing it or not”. I had a surge of control build up like a mini volcano, then with a focus on humour, I was able to pause and see the funny side. Funny at the time because he was making his own choices, I had used a parenting practice I had been clearly over doing and he said it in the same tone I would have. It was funny! We both ended up having a chuckle.
I hope you find space for that inner peace that can exist through awareness and more calm and connection with these 6 whole-hearted strategies. Staying connected to yourself and your child in the challenging times and those tough days can provide the most powerful personal growth, teachable moments and that amazing opportunity to build emotional intelligence and mindfulness for the whole family.
Until next time,
Happy, whole-hearted parenting