I am so pleased to host Dr. Kristen Race, the author of Mindful Parenting: Simple and Powerful Solutions for Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids in Today Hectic World, on the blog today.
Mindful parenting is not something that is setting parents up to fail.
Mindful parenting is the awareness that we do our best for our children in each moment and the ability to have compassion for ourselves when we don’t make the best choices.
Mindful parenting is not a one-size fits all approach to parenting.
Mindful parent is the understanding that each family, child, year, month, and day is going to be different.
Mindful parenting is not a type of discipline.
Mindful parenting is a practice that helps us to make the best discipline choices.
Mindful parenting is not a goal to be achieved.
Mindful parenting is an approach to life and to parenting that helps us to live in the moment, create strong relationships with our kids, and build resilience to modern day stress.
Mindful parenting is not a touchy-feely fad.
Mindful Parenting is rooted in brain science and provides easy to implement tools and practices to helps us feel calmer, become more focused and efficient, and be more engaged with the people around us at home, at work, and at school.
Families today are more stressed than they have ever been. Generation X and Millennials have tied for the crown of most stressed generation in America. And these stressed out parents are raising stressed out kids. According to the recent 2013 American Psychological Association Stress in America report, teens have now been identified as the most stressed people in America. Veteran teachers describe kids entering kindergarten today as the most stressed kids they’ve seen over the course of their careers. Depression and anxiety among elementary school students are at an all time high and one out of every six teens has made plans to commit suicide. Think about that, 4 or 5 of the kids in your child’s math class are planning to kills themselves! We are in the midst of Generation Stress. Parents and kids need help.
This stress impacts how our brains function and how our kids’ brains function. I speak about the brain most simply referring to two parts. I refer to the prefrontal cortex as the smart part of our brain. It is the part of our brain that helps us pay attention, solve problems, think positively, and work and learn efficiently. The alarm part of the brain is the fight, flight or freeze part of the brain. Our hectic lives constantly stimulate the alarm part of the brain and this inhibits the way the prefrontal cortex develops. However, when we engage in short, frequent Mindful Parenting practices, we calm the stress response and make the smart part of our brain stronger, more efficient, and easier to use.
We hear the word Mindfulness more and more these days, but when I mention mindfulness to most people they tend to stare at me as if I have just pulled out a voodoo doll. I define mindfulness as paying attention to the present moment with kindness. Similar to how bicep curls develop your upper arms, mindfulness exercises strengthen the neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex. It makes the smart part of the brain stronger and more efficient and easier to use. Formal mindfulness practices involve taking time each day to intentionally bring awareness to the present moment. It includes things like sitting meditation, mindful listening, a body scan, or even mindful eating.
I am a strong believer that small changes can make a big difference for families. If we go back to the physical fitness analogy most would agree that a twenty minute jog is better than no jog at all, but clearly not going to make as big an impact as a 10 mile run. The same goes for mindfulness. The more we practice the greater the benefit. However, that two-mile jog is a great place to start.
Mindful parenting is an approach to life that involves many different routines, practices and activities, all designed to stimulate the prefrontal cortex in the brain and create a calmer, more peaceful existence for our families and to help us build resilience to the stress that modern life presents.
I lost it with my kids on the way to school the other day – yelling, tears (theirs, not mine) threats of major consequences, and huge guilt after I dropped them off. Perhaps you have had one of those mornings too. Mindful parenting does not mean we won’t have mornings like this, though we will likely have far fewer. The fact that I struggled to parent mindfully that morning does not mean I have failed in mindful parenting. For the beauty of mindful parenting is that through its practice, which is a continual work in progress, we can positively impact the way our brains and our children’s brains function. Whether you are new to mindful parenting, are a mostly mindful parent, or have a formal daily practice, through the engagement of some simple practices we can create calmer, healthier, less stressed homes, one breath at a time.
Kristen Race, Ph.D. is the author of Mindful Parenting and the founder of Mindful Life. She provides mindfulness trainings for parents, educators, athletes and corporate leaders. Dr. Race speaks nationally at conferences and for community groups. Her Mindful Life School methods is used in schools worldwide to provide teachers and students with brain-based mindfulness strategies to manage everyday stressors. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.