Parents often experience more stress than those who are not parents. The COVID-19 pandemic, the racism pandemic, and the current economic downturn have increased feelings of stress and anxiety for many parents, and have influenced the health and overall well-being of families everywhere. Many parents and children are experiencing feelings of uncertainty, injustice, anger, and even loss. A few months ago, everyday life dramatically changed for many, straining family relationships. Parents can do small things each day to help them connect with their family, manage stress, and support the growth and development of their child or children during this challenging time.
It can be difficult for parents to squeeze self-care into their busy days. However, taking even just a few minutes away from your daily routine to do something which helps you relax or brings you joy can restore your energy and help you parent the rest of the day. Just like in an airplane emergency, we, as parents, have to put our oxygen masks on first before we can care for our children. Parents can “recharge their battery” with just 5-10 minutes of doing something they enjoy such as reading a good book, exercising, meditating, listening to music, journaling, taking a bath or even just doing a few minutes of deep breathing.
Parents can be overly critical of themselves and experience negative thoughts and feelings around being a parent, especially when their child is struggling or during a time of intense stress or family conflict. Practicing self-compassion, learning to treat yourself with the same kindness and consideration as would give to a friend, can reduce parenting stress and bring parents more joy. Parents can take a minute each day to do a brief two deep breath self-kindness exercise. During the first deep breath send kindness to the people around you, and with the second breath, extend that same kindness to yourself. Often it can be difficult to show compassion to ourselves, but even a brief self-compassion exercise can support feelings of kindness and love toward yourself and others.
Present Moment Awareness
When parents take time with their children, slow down, and pay attention, even if it’s just for a few moments a few times a day, they become more aware of what’s happening in the present moment. They become more cognizant of thoughts, feelings, and sensations within their body. This mindfulness practice can help parents experience a deeper connection with themselves and their family. Parents may also become more aware of behaviors and patterns within their family which are not helpful. When parents are aware in the present moment, they are more likely to choose how to respond instead of reacting to family situations and are more likely to act in a way which aligns more closely with their values.
Doing small things that matter each day is a way parents can connect with their child or children. When a parent shares one meaningful moment with a child each day, they create a pattern of meaningful moments over time. This sends the message to a child that even though things are sometimes scary right now, “I am loved”. Even if you are incredibly busy, taking a small break to be present with your child will let them know they matter.
We Are Stronger Together
Our culture often sends messages that we should be able to parent on our own without any help. Now more than ever during this time of social distancing during the COVID 19 pandemic and the fight to eliminate systemic racism, parents need the support and help of others. Make the effort to reach out and connect with family, friends, and your community to give support and get help, when needed, during this difficult time.
Mary Alice will be teaching a 6-Week Mindful Parenting Course on Tuesday evenings beginning June 30th.