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Parenting on Purpose: Incorporating mindfulness into everyday life

It’s a common scene at my house:  I’m washing dishes, the baby starts to cry, the 2-year-old drops her milk, and the dog barks to go out.   My thoughts can read something like this:  “I just wanted to get this one thing done!  Where is my husband?  Are the kids and the dog conspiring against me?”  Or, I can pause.  Take a breath.  Recognize my options for responding to the scene, and acknowledge that I can only do one thing at a time.  “The dog has to go out. The baby needs to be picked up…so does the milk.  Right now, I am washing this dish.”

Taking the emotional charge out of our reactions leaves us with the present moment for just what it is and can highlight the part of our present moment that we have control over.  This technique is a part of something called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of grounding ourselves in the present, without getting too caught up in what might happen or what already happened.  Practicing mindfulness in parenting can allow us to enjoy our days and feel more connected with our children.

For any parent, it is possible to have 481 things on your mind at any one time…approximately.  These things can distract us from our children and deny us the happiness of the moment that we are in with them.  If you find yourself in a situation like this, try one of the following mindfulness techniques:

  • Remind yourself of the facts of the present moment.  These facts do not include whether or not enough was eaten for lunch earlier or how he will react to his new teacher tomorrow.  Just be in this moment right now.
  • Look around the room and identify three colors. This is a simple way of pulling ourselves out of our unrelated thoughts and back into the present.
  • Pay attention to the sounds around you.

Mindfulness is a unique practice for everyone.  Some use meditation- sitting silently for a period of time, even if for just a couple of minutes- to focus on the here and now.  Applying mindfulness in parenting is all about recognizing the choices we have in terms of how we react to and interact with our children.  We can sit with our children, scrolling through our phones, planning for tomorrow, not really engaged, or we can focus our attention on the moment and enjoy it for what it is.

So the next time you are singing bedtime songs for your toddler, worried about whether or not she’s sick, and thinking about the blog you have to write for work, take a breath.  Remind yourself of the facts:  she will be fine, the work will get done.  Rockabye.

For additional readings on mindfulness, see: “Mindful Motherhood” by Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D.  “Buddha’s Brain” by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

Written By:
Dr. Jillian M. Wickery, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Athans and Associates
Clinical Lecturer in Psychology, Northwestern University


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