It’s been one crazy year and many of us have seen epic levels of stress, burnout and just plain, old losing our patience. With more than one year of Covid restrictions under our belts, two of our VFN members, Abigail Somma (Abbie) & Rima Saad Hochreiter, both Mindfulness and Meditation Teachers, share some tips on how to stay mindful with our kids.
Tip 1. Make sure to reserve dedicated ‘me’ times … it’s an act of self-kindness! (Rima): It’s often hard to find the time to nourish yourselves as parents with young children. But making the time for self-care activities, whether it’s the daily walk out in nature, or a 20-minute yoga or meditation practice, can do wonders. I actually try to do all three things during the course of my day and these ‘me’ times really allow my mind to settle and my body to relax. With this little dose of well-being, you are able to approach your children with fresh energy and be truly present for them. They will sense this right away!
Tip 2. When you want something done, get into their world (Abbie): The other day I came across this quote from Walter Barbe: “If you have told a child a thousand times and he still does not understand, then it is not the child who is the slow learner.” It felt like ouch, but also something to consider. Here’s the thing I like about it: it prompts us to ask if there are other ways of getting our goals met that we might be missing. For example, if I want my children to do something, whether that be to put on their shoes or come to dinner or what have you, I can say ten times, in a voice that gets increasingly louder: “It’s time for dinner!” or I can walk over, intentionally get into their world and say something like, “Looks like you’re having a lot of fun playing. Did you just build a garage? Wow, that’s so cool!” My child feels seen, heard and acknowledged, which opens the space to say, “Do you think you can come to dinner in a few minutes?” At this point, pretty much every child wants to be on your side. If you haven’t tried it already, you may be surprised by how well it works.
Tip 3. Practice relentless self-compassion on the path toward meeting your goals (Abbie): One of my goals as a parent was to stop yelling at my kids, and I don’t mean the minor voice raise here or there, but the kind of yelling that scares kids into compliance. It’s something that many of us grew up with and I didn’t want to repeat it as a parent. So at a certain point, I committed to being a yelling-free mother, but of course, a few times, I slipped up. The key to staying on track was moving into self-compassion mode, acknowledging that I was trying my best and forgiving myself. None of us is perfect and the pandemic has given us all too much practice in feeling difficult emotions. Consider if you want to set any goals as a parent – more patience, presence, quality time, empathy, laughter and playfulness, etc. – and practice forgiving yourself when you fall short. Not only is this good for you and your mental health, it’s also good role modelling for your kids.
Tip 4. Take a deep breath and acknowledge their inner experiences, even when it gets tricky (Rima): Our children have had to deal with quite a bit, with all the restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic. They may seek more attention or become more emotional. One of my daughters (11) has been especially reactive in the last few months, and I’ve found that the best response is to drop whatever I’m doing, calmly acknowledge her experience and hold her. This grounding and comforting action has the effect of disconnecting our little ones from any negative thought pattern they may be engaged with, helping them release their felt anxiety or frustration, and reminding them that they are loved.
Tip 5. Have them release energy, engage their senses & spend time with friends (Rima): Regular activities that help release energy (sport, dance, walks) and activate the senses (craft-work, music, being outdoors) can generally prevent negative feelings from building up. My daughters mostly accompany me on my daily walks. We got to know our neighborhood a lot better since, and have befriended many dogs and even five chickens ☺
Oh, and don’t forget to arrange regular meet-ups with friends – outdoors or virtually. A gentle reminder to ourselves, that we are social beings who naturally want to share experiences and feel each other’s care.
If you want to learn more about what our fellow VFN members Rima and Abbie are up to, please check out their websites listed in their bios!
Abigail Somma (Abbie) offers coaching and training in mindfulness, emotional intelligence and achieving goals. Visit her website at www.themindfulgoods.com
Rima Saad Hochreiter is a certified mindfulness trainer offering courses to individuals, schools and organisations. Learn more at www.mindfullifeskills.com