How often do we rush the kids out the door — not because we’re worried that they’d make it to school on time, but because we’re stressed about a work project and have ours minds focused on getting to that instead? And there are all those times when an argument with our partner affects how we’ll parent for the rest of the day.
Dr. Pilar M. Placone, a psychotherapist and author of Mindful Parent Happy Child, explains that by taking a minute to acknowledge what you’re dealing with it before moving on to parent is better for all involved. If you can clear your mind and acknowledge where you’re coming from, it will allow you to be more attuned and focused, and the kids, in turn, can feel happier and more secure. This this kind of parenting takes some practice, so we asked Placone for guidance.
Q: So what is mindful parenting exactly?
A: Mindful parenting is focusing on the parent being able to be present with where they are at — emotionally, mentally, physically — so that they can use that attuned awareness of themselves to better attune with their children. So they’re aware of when they’re in a happy space, or not in a happy space, or upset at their boss, and are able to kind of adjust and regulate their emotional selves. They’re able to be more present and available to children.
Q: This seems like quite a switch — so many parenting books focus on how to make your child happy from a child’s point of view, whereas you focus on parents.
A: That is the difference. There are wonderful books out there really helping parents use tools and techniques to child-rear. But this is really about a belief that if the parent isn’t aligned with being present with themselves, then whatever technique they’re using, their child is going to pick up on if their parents are really centred and focused on them. With the everyday parent, we’ve got so many things going on — whether it’s at work or an e-mail we need to get to — we can really lose that sense of where we’re at in the present moment. And our kids are attuned to that.
Q: How can mindful parenting make kids happier? Or make for a happier family?
A: It’s really about that emotional connection. We know that children who are securely attached with their parents — which comes from a parent being able to read their child’s needs, attend to their child’s needs in a reasonable amount of time — that secures a child’s emotional well-being with the parent. A happy child is a child who knows that their parents are listening to them, that they are available to them, and they understand and know their needs.
Q: How can we start right away to move towards mindful parenting?
A: It’s not like you have to spend hours meditating or anything like that. Really, it’s just waking up and doing a mindfulness scan of yourself. How am I feeling right now? What am I carrying into this day? What are my intentions? How do I want my child to feel about themselves at the end of the day? How do I want to feel about myself as a parent at the end of the day? What are the choices I can make in this moment that can cultivate that way of being in myself? So it might be recognizing that you’re tired and accepting your tiredness and dealing with it. It’s about being attuned with the whole self.