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Coming Home to the Present

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

There are endless reasons to feel overwhelmed as a parent! Uncertainty and stress are a given. The busyness of our lives means that we are often distracted or pulled away from the present moment.

When we are tired or rushing, or caught up in worries or wishes of how things could be, our attention moves away from the present moment. We may lose our capacity to be tuned into our child. In this way, strong emotions and distractions can impact our connection with our loved ones.

Mindfulness is not about being a perfect parent. It is about being aware of what is happening inside us and around us…in the present moment. Mindfulness can lead us back to a steadier, less reactive state when we are distressed and upset.

In this calmer state, we are more present and open to what our child needs from us in the moment: comfort, guidance, or simply being there. Coming home to the present moment allows us to be more available and attentive. 

Strong emotions and choosing our response 

Stress is contagious, and our children feel it. When we feel stress, we also feel strong emotions that can make us reactive, saying or doing things that are not in line with our parenting values. We cannot choose how we feel, but we can choose how we manage these strong emotions.

Just as you might comfort your child when they feel pain, we can comfort ourselves with kind attention.

Sometimes, it is enough for us to recognize the emotion or feeling. For example, you might notice how emotions are felt in your body - butterflies in the stomach, embarrassed blush, or a tension headache.

Other times, an action may help:

  • Stepping away from a situation, and pausing before you respond
  • Practicing mindful breathing, walking, feeling our feet, or taking a brief self-compassion break
  • Sometimes when the pain is too much, compassion might mean shifting your mind away from the strong emotion through distraction or focussing on an activity

Feelings come and go on their own. With practice, we can learn how to be present with these feelings and manage them in a different way.  

Shifting into the present moment 

Have you ever gone through a task while your mind was somewhere else?

We are generally good at accomplishing the “doing” parts of our day without thinking too much about them - like family chores, driving the kids to school, doing the laundry, making dinner, and helping with homework. It is natural for our minds to wander during routine tasks. 

The opposite of a wandering mind is awareness of the present moment. We bring focus to what we’re doing, as we’re doing it. We are aware of how our body and mind live this moment. This attention enriches our connection, and brings energy and joy to our relationship. This quality is particularly important when we engage with our children.

Being present all the time isn’t realistic, but with practice, you can be more aware of how and when simply “being there” is important. Sometimes, it is what a child needs in the moment. Children notice when we are really there and fully present with them.

You can practice shifting into present moment awareness right now. Pause. Breathe...

  • What do you notice about your experience right now?
  • What sensations do you notice in your body? What do you notice about your posture?
  • What do you see or hear around you?

This living, breathing, full body and mind experience: that’s presence.

Lingering on happy moments

Noticing and enjoying positive moments and happy experiences helps to reinforce connection in family life, and can build resilience for when times are tough.

Listening to your child’s laughter

Noticing your child’s smile

Sharing a fun moment

We are not pretending to be happy. We simply take time to notice a positive experience and pay attention to how it feels. When we practice noticing positive moments, it becomes a habit.

Bringing our awareness to positive experiences is more important than it sounds. What do you tend to notice more often in your day to day? It can be easy for our minds to hold on to the challenges of the day, overshadowing the moments of joy. Invite yourself to reflect on a positive moment that you had recently with your child, or bring to mind something you appreciate about them.  

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Through real stories, expertise, and practical tips, this podcast helps families promote their mental health and wellness, navigating important topics to meet you where you are in your journey.