Mindful Parenting

Life in Israel often feels like life in the fast track. I believe there is something innately more intense about living in Israel than the United States, where I lived before. The week revolves around Shabbat and the Holidays in an endless cycle; challenging us to pause and take note of the passage of time. Yet somehow at the same time, we are forever rushing.

As a parent, I see the years tumble by and often wonder if I’m too involved in providing for the people in my life to grow and flourish as I should. To really take a minute to be present, connect and appreciate the people in my life. Think for a moment about the milestones babies accomplish – their first smiles are greeted with such joy and enthusiasm. As children grow older, this kind of appreciation is reserved for special occasions. When does a parent experience “nachas*”? (*Nachas is that feeling of unbridled pride in their children which a parent feels.) Do we need our children to achieve what we dreamt for them? Or can we take a moment to breathe deeply and appreciate who they are and celebrate their accomplishment in the moment? Mindful parenting is about taking a mindful approach to life, applying it to our parenting and trying to improve our awareness and appreciation for the challenges and gifts that parenting entails.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of awareness; of slowing down to feel grounded in the moment and of being aware of our presence in the here and now. There are many ways to achieve a state of mindfulness; the most basic is to simply focus on one’s breathing.

As you read this, try it: Sit comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor, close your eyes and spend a minute feeling the sensations of your breath. You may choose to focus on the sensation of air entering your nostrils or perhaps on the feeling of  your belly rising and falling with each breath. After a few breaths you’ll probably discover that focusing on the rhythmic pattern of breathing is quite relaxing. Stay with that feeling. Breathe deeply, and let go of tension as you exhale.  When you open your eyes you will probably feel different. You may feel calmer and perhaps energized.

Take a moment to focus on breathing a few times during the day. After a while it will become second nature to take a deep breath whenever you want to feel more focused or relaxed.

Mindfulness is connected with good parenting; we can each use mindfulness in moments of stress; and addressing our stress is a great first step to being calmer and more engaged with our children.

Here are few tips for breathing mindfully:

  1. Try to take a few moments to focus on your breath when you wake up.
  2. Take a minute to count your blessings. Then swing your legs out of bed and face the day!
  3. Try to breath deeply before going to sleep. It’s relaxing.
  4. While breathing deeply and relaxing before going to sleep, try thinking of the things that went well today.
  5. If you can take a moment to breathe deeply and relax before your children come rushing in through the door I’m sure you will feel a difference.
  6. If you have to reprimand a child, please breathe deeply before saying anything.
  7. When the phone rings, pause, take a deep breath and smile. Then answer the phone.

What helps you be more mindful? Be a more mindful parent? I’d love to hear how simply changing your breathing to a conscious breath-awareness has influenced your day!

About the Author
Marsha R. Caplan is an art therapist, holds an MA in expressive arts therapy from the University of Haifa, and is a parent, grandparent and educator. As an art therapist she knows how important self-expression is, and how it can be used to foster self-awareness and growth. She understands lives can be changed for the better with compassionate mindful parenting and positive reinforcement and belief in the power of change.
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