Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment - being aware of what is going on in our body, our feelings, our emotions and perceptions. More self-awareness can guide our communication with our children, helping us to remain open and receptive to their needs as well as our own.
Responding with awareness
Our response to stress can influence the way we interact with our children and others. Have you ever spoken harshly in the moment, only to calm down and apologize later? A difficult conversation with your child can trigger the stress response and mindfulness can help us identify and cope with strong emotions.
Our breath helps connect our body and mind in one place: the here and the now! Noticing the quality of our breath can alert us to how we are doing and how we are coping... are we stressed or peaceful, irritable or open hearted?
For example, if we recognize we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we may decide to delay an important conversation with our child until we are feeling more settled and prepared. If we don’t delay our response and regret our action, we can also recognize this and shift towards repairing the situation with a deeper understanding and kindness. This might be through an apology or deep listening.
Focus on your breath with this 5 minute meditation by Dr. Joanna McDermid.
Deep listening and loving speech
It may be helpful to consider mindful communication as two wings of a bird, as Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh proposes.
1. The first wing of the bird is deep listening
To listen deeply, we open our hearts and minds to receive the words and messages of the other person.
Listening without interrupting.
Listening without correcting.
Listening without already planning what to say next.
We steer away from giving advice or telling our own story. We simply listen with the intention to be fully present with our child, to relieve their distress, to be there for them.
2. The other wing of the bird is loving speech
Choosing our words thoughtfully, aligning them with our values of compassion and non-judgement, allows openness and building of trust in the relationship.
We can also become more aware of our non-verbal communication, and notice how our presence can affect our children. We can notice when we are engaged or distracted. We can bring curiosity to conversations, as opposed to judgements and expectations.
Sometimes, silence is a compassionate and important response. Mindfulness can help us understand when this might be the case.
With mindful communication, the intention is to speak truthfully, with compassion and respect. Our children learn not only by our guidance, but also by our example.
|You can read about one parent's experience with mindful communication in the Kelty blog: Mindful Parenting - It's Not an Oxymoron.
Creating loving limits
Conflict is natural and normal and having a solid mindfulness practice can help you navigate stressful situations. Listening and speaking from a place of compassion doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries. It’s important to be able to communicate clear limits and healthy boundaries, which provides a sense of safety and structure.
As an example, you might wish to set limits with screen time. You might say to your child “I understand it’s difficult, and you can be upset with me and I understand that,” or “I’m sorry I have to say no, I know it's hard, but we agreed as a family to turn off and put away technology 2 hours before bedtime.”
We can model respect for our children, acknowledge the times when we get it wrong, and communicate to our child that their opinion and experience is important.
Our loved ones will benefit when we can speak and listen with compassion and respect.