Connecting to Your Child Through Mindfulness
This is a conversation on how to explore mindfulness as a way to connect with our kids.
Of course, in order to connect to our children with presence, we need to be able to connect with ourselves in a mindful way. When I’m paying attention to my own emotions and actions, I am best prepared to model and teach my child, or other children in my life, how to most skillfully be with, relate to, and respond to their emotions.
What is Mindfulness?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard the term mindfulness in so many different ways. A common description of mindfulness is being in the present moment. An expression that many of us can relate to is “stopping to smell the roses.”
With mindfulness we don’t just stop to smell the roses -- we pause to notice what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we’re feeling while doing it. Not an easy task in our distracted lives. We may also use the words “presence of mind” or “wakefulness.”
How can we be mindful?
Practically speaking, let me share what I do.
Whenever I have a moment where my minds feels chaotic, I take four slow inhalations and exhalations -- four breaths to bring myself into the present moment.
Most days, I take those four breaths several times a day. Just that action redirects me to my next best step. It sounds simple, but it’s transformative for me.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness helps me to tune into what’s really happening for me. It provides enough stillness to understand where my reactions are coming from. It’s a chance to check in with my emotions, my body, and my relationships.
As I become more aware of my feelings and thoughts, I can become more aware and responsive to my child’s feelings, thoughts, and needs.
Mindfulness helps me become better at regulating my emotions in all areas of my life: work, partnership, and friendships. And as a result, I have become more kind and less critical of myself and my kid.
When I practice mindfulness, I become responsive rather than reactive and it helps me to avoid impulsivity. I’m hopeful that practicing mindfulness will improve my relationships throughout all stages of life.
How does mindfulness affect our connection with our children?
When I’m dealing with kids, my hope is to bring a present self. This means I must cultivate mindfulness for myself, and then I can aim to be a calm presence for them. A non-judgmental relationship to my own emotions is key to helping children embrace their emotions.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher, speaks to the importance of emotional mindfulness. “At an emotional level, we feel that things should be happy and when things are difficult or painful, something’s wrong. According to Buddhist teachings, this is what causes suffering.”
Mindfulness is a practice -- and it takes practice. We don’t land in perfection in this role. We are a work in progress. Self-compassion and patience are key.
At times, you will forget to be mindful, but with practice you will remember and bring yourself back. Making “mistakes” will also show your child that adults aren’t perfect, and they are not required to be perfect, either. We just keep on keeping on and stay on the path of presence.
Practicing mindfulness with our children doesn’t mean that we won’t have big or difficult emotions. But we can learn to be with our feelings, lean into them, invite our difficult emotions to tea.
Modeling attending to -- rather than distracting from -- our emotions is one the most invaluable lessons you will ever teach your child.