By Chinar Som
The life of a new parent is often marked by chaos and commotion. While trying to adapt to the multiple changes brought in by the birth of the baby; adopting the philosophical approach of mindfulness might be viewed as an unlikely coping mechanism. Yet, steeped in this ancient wisdom lies the key to effective parenting. Mindfulness as a practice in parenting has benefits endorsed by the scientific community as well. It’s use in the early years of a child’s life has been found to be a promising practice that leads to better future outcomes.
What is Mindfulness?
Simply put, it is an act of BE- ing. Being aware of what we are doing, as we are doing it. Therefore, it is highlighted by the need to:
- Be present
- Pay attention
It prevents us from being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is happening in our environment.
How does being mindful help in parenting?
New mothers are often under immense stress. Their inability to relax or get quality sleep is directly related to their stress. It can further lead to emotional distress that releases stress hormone (cortisol) in the body and a possible reduction in breast milk production. Being mindful helps mothers cope better, reduce the adverse effects of stress and stay afloat amidst the constant concerns related to nursing and consoling a crying baby. When one focuses on the present action, they stop worrying about all that happened in the past, a while back or might happen in the next moment or near future.
- Hence, It helps new parents to gradually manage their stress and anxiety better.
- By being more attentive to their babies, mothers can improve how they respond to their baby.
- It leads to better communication practices.
- It promotes healthy, higher quality relationships between the parent and child.
As parents, let go of the need to control and assert power over the child. Mindful parenting can prevent maladaptive or unhealthy relations between the parent and child in the future.
How to become a mindful parent?
Breathe with awareness -Simply become aware of your breath. Breathe slow and deep. Mindful breathing relaxes us and lowers stress. It is linked to the functioning of our nervous systems and hence controls the ‘fight or flight response' we experience in challenging situations. Whether you are nursing your baby, watching them sleep, walking from one room to another or doing any of your chores…..if you can remember to breathe easy, you will find yourself in a more relaxed emotional state.
Observe and listen- Practise observing your child and listening with full attention. When you pay attention you notice with greater clarity what makes your baby uncomfortable, what sounds they make to express their needs, discomforts, pain or pleasure. Being aware brings the focus to the present. It will help you as a parent to cope with the situation at hand, in that moment. It is also equally important to observe your own emotions and sensations.
Accept – Though much easier said than done. Learn to accept yourself as well as your child without judgements.
We as humans are used to continuous, negative self-talk and criticism. It makes us forget all the positive efforts that we might have put in when the outcome is not so successful. Realize, there are many adjustments that both a new parent and the child are going through hence show compassion for yourself as well as your child.
Practise the pause – Take a moment to gather your thoughts before you respond verbally or non-verbally. A moment of slowing down can make that all important difference in shifting your response to an appropriate one from an undesirable one.
Respond – The final aim of mindfulness is to respond rather than react. If you can imagine what your baby maybe feeling; for example – when they are crying or throwing a tantrum, or refusing to sleep, you will understand and empathize better with their situation. This lets you respond appropriately and responsibly rather than having a helpless or unpleasant reaction.
Being a parent means more often than not things will be out of control. Just a reminder that you may not be able to control your child, you may not be able to control your environment or circumstances but you can certainly control YOUR RESPONSE.
Being a mindful parent is a process and a practice. You are not expected to become an instant Zen master but it is certainly a doable practice. One small step at a time and you are already on the road to becoming a calmer, effective parent.
About the author-
Chinar Som has Post Graduate degrees in Special Education and Human Development, with over 16 years of experience. She has taught from High school to Post-Graduate University students in India. She is an expert on a wide range of educational and parenting topics. A polyglot with a passion for writing. She practices a holistic healing lifestyle.