The marriage of mindfulness and parenting seems like a great theoretical union and, in practice, can be difficult to achieve. The idea that we can mindfully stay in the moment and balance the hundreds of tasks and events that involve professional, academic and social demands on top of parenting responsibilities can seem counterintuitive. While mindfulness has had profound clinical and practical applications across hundreds of child, adolescent and adult domains, mindfulness in parenting has been a relatively neglected focus in research in spite of its popularity in a number of different fields. We do, however, have a dynamic study evaluating the six components of parent mindfulness that can have a significant impact on parenting effectiveness and adolescent emotional health.
Most of the parenting mindfulness components will seem fairly intuitive and, on our best days (whether that is operationalized by our parenting skills or kid’s behavior!), do not seem that difficult. On challenging days, it is not difficult to understand how parent mindfulness can escape our awareness. According to Geurtzen et al, the six core components of parent mindfulness are:
- Listening to your child with full attention
- Compassion for your child
- Non-judgmental acceptance of parent functioning and deficits
- Emotional non-reactivity in your parenting
- Emotional awareness of your child
- Emotional awareness of your self
In a peaceful moment, each is intuitive and worthy of a shoulder shrug and head bob ‘yes, of course’. When the poop hits the fan, however, it is easy to imagine how quickly each can leave our parenting skill set. Interestingly, one of the six parent mindfulness components can provide benefits to both the parent and child. By practicing non-judgmental acceptance of our parenting deficits, we can lessen our child’s anxiety and depressive symptomatology. To operationalize, by being transparent in our current or recently past parenting faux pas, parents can positively affect our child’s emotional health.
In addition to accepting and being transparent around our own deficits and mistakes, parents can also help their kids by mindfully managing their stress. Often, while parents feel more productive by multitasking, research has demonstrated that people generally accomplish less by doing more. And that stress takes it toll on parents as well as their kids. While research has shown the importance of cutting down on stress elicited through academics, extracurricular activities and peer pressure, the most devastating pressure kids face is their parent’s stress. There is immense value in remembering that our kids are constantly watching and listening to their parents and their ability to be a sponge for unrelenting parental stress is equally as overwhelming for them. While adult stressors are inevitable, it is valuable for parents to help create a predictable, safe home where stress is more of an exception in their lives rather than the norm.
Remember that one of the key components to mindfulness is being aware when your parenting drifts from where you want to be to where you are. The ongoing practice of ‘catching yourself’ when the drift occurs and recommitting to following the six components of parent mindfulness will continue to reinforce excellent parenting mindfulness skills. If you are looking for resources to establish a mindfulness practice, PsychCentral’s own Christy Matta has a great introduction to mindfulness.
Thanks for reading…….if you have suggestions for future practical parenting blogs, please feel free to include them in the comments section below.