The more I simplify and declutter my life, the more time and space I create to live more mindfully. Mindfulness can be incorporated into our lives in many different ways. But one of my favourite ways to incorporate more mindfulness in my life is through my meditation practice. Today I’d like to share how practicing meditation is helping me learn to be a better parent.
Being able to stay calm in times of conflict or stress is a skill that can have a tremendously positive impact on our daily lives. This is especially true when you’re a parent. Meditation is a tool that’s been very helpful as I’m learning to stay calm as a parent.
Noticing my own negative reactions
Patience has never been my greatest strength. I wish I could be one of those calm and serene people who never lose their patience or get upset. But unfortunately, I’m not. But I believe learning to stay calm is one of the most important things you can learn as a parent. And it’s definitely something I’m working on.
A few years ago, I realized in addition to being an introvert, I am also a Highly Sensitive Person. Which means I can become easily overwhelmed with busyness, chaos, noise and activity.
This has made parenting challenging for me. With small children around, it seems as though there is never ending noise, activity, chaos and busyness. It can easily overwhelm me. And when I become overwhelmed, I often get impatient and frustrated quickly and easily.
Knowing these things about myself, it’s very important for my own well being, and in order to be a better parent, to find ways to stay calm, even in times of stress or overwhelm.
Parenting is not easy
Being a parent is an amazing gift, but it’s not an easy job. Kids do things that push our buttons, test our limits and raise our stress levels all the time. They (usually) don’t do these things intentionally. Testing limits and boundaries is a normal part of how they are figuring out the world.
The problem doesn’t come from their limit testing, but from our reactions to the limit testing. Staying calm and centered, even when our buttons are being pushed and our limits tested, is very important. But the tricky part is actually figuring out how to remain calm in those stressful parenting moments.
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join in their chaos.”
– L.R. Knost
When we are able to remain calm as parents, we are able to choose a more positive response and reaction. And we are also able to help our kids learn how to manage their own emotions by our example.
We determine the weather in our homes
As the primary caregiver in our family, my behaviour and mood often determines the mood of the whole house. Our kids feed off our moods and emotions. When we feel grumpy, anxious or overwhelmed, the general mood of the house tends to be that way too. But when we feel calm and centered, the mood of the house reflects that as well.
“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether the crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
– Haim Ginott
Of course, no one is happy and in a good mood all the time. We all have bad days. But the difference is our ability to stay calm even during the difficult times. When we can return to a calm and centered place, we help our whole family find that calm too. Especially during the hard moments.
When our kids are behaving in ways we don’t like, pushing our buttons, or testing the limits, it’s our own responses that make the biggest difference. Our reactions and responses will either fan the flames and grow the fire or douse it with water and put the fire out.
Knowing this is one thing, but remembering it in the heat of the moment is a whole other thing. So, how do we teach ourselves to remain calm and centered even in the heat of the moment?
Meditation is helping me learn to be a better parent
This is where I’ve found meditation to be a very effective tool. Meditation teaches us to notice our thoughts and feelings, but let them come and go without judging or becoming attached to them. Which helps us learn how to be more mindful and how to focus our attention on the present moment.
Meditation can help you find a moment of pause between noticing our thoughts and emotions, and reacting to those thoughts and emotions. And in that moment of pause, you have the ability to consciously choose your response or reaction.
Teaching ourselves to notice our thoughts and emotions without immediately reacting to them is a game changer. That moment of pause gives you the opportunity to respond in a calm, loving way. Instead of allowing your emotions to fuel a reaction without conscious thought.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor E Frankl
The Benefits of meditation
Meditation gives you the space and awareness to respond lovingly and intentionally, instead of reacting in a negative way to stressful situations. But there are many other benefits of a consistent meditation practice, including:
- Reducing stress levels
- Improving your ability to deal with stress
- Helping to cope with depression and anxiety
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving sleep quality
- Helping manage chronic pain
- Improving concentration and focus
- Promoting relaxation
- Improving your mood
These are just some of the benefits of a consistent meditation practice. These benefits can have a positive impact on anyone, parent or not.
Meditation is a practice
It may seem obvious that remaining calm during difficult situations would be beneficial for you, your child and your relationship with your child. But when you’re actually in the middle of a difficult situation, it can be easier said than done.
It takes practice to learn how to notice your thoughts and emotions, then give yourself a moment to pause before reacting to them. A consistent meditation practice can help you learn to do this.
The idea of meditating is simple, but the practice of meditation is not always easy. If you’ve ever tried meditation, you might have noticed as soon as you sit down and try to quiet your thoughts, your mind suddenly starts thinking about everything!
But that’s why it’s called a meditation practice. Meditation isn’t about not thinking anyways. It’s about learning to notice when a thought pops into your mind, but then letting it go, instead of getting caught up in it. Over time and with consistent practice, it becomes easier to sit in meditation without hopping aboard every train of thought that comes along.
One of my favourite meditation teachers described it as clouds passing in the sky. Your mind is the blue sky and your thoughts are the clouds. Meditation teaches you to notice the clouds, but then watch them pass and return your attention to the blue sky.
Over time, it becomes easier to notice a thought during meditation but then watch it pass and return to your breath, your body and the present moment. Outside of meditation, this practice lets you notice thoughts or emotions that come up during the day. Then gives you the self-awareness to take a moment of pause so you can respond with intention.
Learning to respond with intention is a journey
This is not to say that I’ve got it all figured out and am a perfectly calm parent all the time. I’m on this journey myself.
Some days I feel like I’ve found the moment of pause and responded to my kids with intention and loving kindness. Other days my emotions get the best of me and I react with impatience, frustration or irritation more than I’d like. On those days, the only thing we can do is remind ourselves that tomorrow is a new day and we can try again tomorrow. Learning to respond with love is not only important in our responses to our children, but also to ourselves.
I hope this post will inspire you to try meditation if it’s something you’ve never tried before. Or encourage you to continue with your meditation practice if it’s already part of your life.
I’d love to hear more about your strategies for staying calm as a parent. Do you practice meditation? What have you found helps you stay calm when your kids are pushing all your buttons?