Are you tired and overwhelmed?
Are you sick of feeling like the day goes by in total chaos and you aren’t doing anything well (let alone intentionally)? Can you ever find time for self-care?
Mindfulness practice is about corralling your attention, kindly and gently bringing it back to the present. Our minds wander about half of the time, on average. So just bringing your attention back to your breathing, for example, is a mindfulness practice. Why to do it? Two decades of scientific research have confirmed many health and emotional benefits. Even short meditation practice improves focus, mood, immune function and overall wellbeing (reducing anxiety, feeling of isolation etc.). You can start—and start to benefit—right away.
1. Emotional self-care
As parents of small children, we all know how important it is to have adequate external support. But you also need internal support: self-awareness, emotional regulation and recognition of your own needs. These can be boosted by mindfulness meditation. “Mindfulness can be seen as a way of developing a secure attachment with yourself, becoming your own best friend” (Daniel J. Siegel). You can reconnect with yourself when you pause and consciously bring your full attention to the present, noticing with kindness: bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise, your automatic reactions and impulses as they ignite.
2. Being together
Meditation Playdates are tailored for parents with small children, practices accommodate and refer to the parenting experience and the child’s presence. Shared mindfulness practice is powerful. And, of course, it’s easier to practice in a group. These sessions provide a special perspective you don’t get meditating on your own, or with adults only, in some peaceful and secluded spot. It’s an opportunity to pause in the middle of the storm and realize what happens with you—in your body and mind—in an everyday context. You can start to shift from just reacting to consciously responding in a compassionate and constructive way.
3. Children benefit
When a parent can pause and reconnect with themselves, they become more emotionally available. They become really present – not talking to someone else, not on the phone, not lost in thought – which is what our kids really need from us to thrive. Small children can also learn to self-regulate by watching and responding to the state their parents are in; even an infant syncs with mom’s mood (co-regulation of hormones). We are modeling self-care, and we even teach breath awareness to bigger kids by sharing simple exercises with them (if they are interested). Importantly, Meditation Playdates create an opportunity for unstructured play, which is known to stimulate kids’ creativity, problem solving and social skills.
Mindfulness and self-compassion can help parents reconnect with themselves to understand their own emotions, and also tune in to those of their children. We can cultivate our child’s secure attachment by being present: accepting, listening, and taking in all cues with curiosity and kindness. This also fosters our child’s self-regulation and social-emotional abilities.
Our “Meditation Playdates” are designed for parents with their small child and other parents with kids (age 0 to 3 years). The kids can cuddle or play while the parents sit in silence, following a guided meditation and being present to whatever unfolds. It’s not about checking out and drifting away; participants are guided to stay in the here-and-now, present and responsive to their kids.
Ela Compton MA is the founder of ParentsPause. Learn more about Meditation Playdates and mindful parenting at ParentsPause.com
Or, contact Ela at firstname.lastname@example.org