As sweet as the rewards are, parenting can be a tough gig. Our minds are riddled with anxieties, stresses, and perpetual to-do lists — we’re mentally multi-tasking a mile a minute, while simultaneously doing our best to put energy into raising our kids, running our households, growing a career (if we’re at work), and nourishing our relationships.
So, how can parents practice mindfulness — and be present — when we have all of that on the go? To be in the moment (and combat burnout) we need to prioritize time to recharge while doing our best to clear the mind of constant chatter and distractions.
It’s easier said than done, but with practice comes improvement.
Watch: Use meditation to help your child relax. Story continues below.
Set the tone for your day in the morning
While an hour spent in silent reverie probably isn’t a realistic option for many parents, a few moments of stillness before the day begins is not only attainable, but beneficial — even a few calming breaths as we wake can help set the tone for the day.
Scanning our social feeds and news apps first thing can inundate and overstimulate — sitting and taking five deep breaths clears the mind instead. You control what you choose to let in during those waking moments.
Try bringing to mind something in your life that you are grateful for and then set an intention for the day. Kids can join in on the fun, too, especially by making it part of their morning routine — a cozy snuggle and then a moment to sit and cultivate gratitude.
As your practice grows you’ll find it easier to sit a little longer. Ready to make this a daily ritual? Try setting your alarm 15 or 30 minutes earlier than you would normally wake, to ensure you have time to practice.
Take phone time-outs
Within the hectic pace of work and family life we can easily get caught up in filling every moment with our devices under the guise of productive multi-tasking.
Waiting in line at the bank checking emails, walking to school scrolling the ’gram, watching Netflix and browsing Facebook at the same time. The more we condition ourselves to expect constant stimulation the harder it is to slow down and simply be.
Next time you’re walking to pick up your kids, try to resist the burning urge to mindlessly scroll through your phone — be present for that walk instead. Notice your surroundings, the trees, the buildings, the colours, the smells, and take that time to clear your day and prepare to greet your kids calm and refreshed.
Do you find yourself half-listening to tales of playground drama while preparing dinner? Try having a phone time-out — say from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — giving yourself more incentive to be present and to engage. Your kids will notice (and appreciate it), and this tech-free time might just motivate an evening ritual of sharing and connection.
Put downtime in your calendar
As parents, we have no problem scheduling baseball practice, playdates, bake sales, and birthday parties to ensure that our kids’ needs are met. Scheduling time for Mom and Dad to recharge is of equal importance.
Do you have back-to-back weekends of away games coming up? Make the following Saturday a cozy day at home. Take care of errands in advance and then catch up on reading, have a family movie night, or go for a walk with no ulterior motive attached other than enjoying the calming effects of time spent in nature.
Working late nights all week? Look ahead in your calendar to a date when your workload is more manageable and book yourself a yoga class, time to run, or a gallery visit — prioritize whatever it is that fuels you.
Not only does this offer you an opportunity to recharge, it also helps with parental anxiety. If we see “Mom Spin Class” in the calendar next to “Dog Vet” and “Billy’s Dentist Apt” we visualize it as equally important as these other tasks. Bonus: it makes you feel confident that your other responsibilities are being taken care of.
Be your own best friend
But what if instead of indulging in constant criticism we engaged in BFF-level self-love instead? Next time you find yourself thinking about what needs to be done around the house while cuddling on the couch with your kids, invite some kindness into your mind and let go of the stressed-out inner commentary.
There’s always going to be a task that needs to be done, but turning a family hangout into a fun way to chat and connect with your kids means you may actually look forward to the task instead of distractedly thinking about it.
Or, if you have a partner, get them to run errands or do housework so you can be more present with the kids.
Being a parent is a gift, but it doesn’t mean you have to give all of yourself at the expense of meeting your own needs. Considering your own health & wellbeing alongside the responsibilities you have to your children is a great way to practice mindfulness and nurture a happy and healthy family.
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