| Mind­ful par­ent­ing and fam­ily well-be­ing

Mind­ful par­ent­ing pro­vides an ap­proach to par­ent­ing that can serve to en­hance both the par­ent's and child’s well-be­ing, and it’s catch­ing on.

Living Now - - Editorial - by Me­gan Hate­ley

Mind­ful par­ent­ing pro­vides an ap­proach to par­ent­ing that can serve to en­hance both the par­ent's and child’s well-be­ing.

Get up, get dressed, feed the kids, make lunches, pack the bags, grab some toast and race out the door – a nor­mal morn­ing of chaos. Sound fa­mil­iar? Rais­ing chil­dren is laden with de­mands that can im­pact a par­ent’s level of health and well­ness. Ap­proach­ing par­ent­ing from a mind­ful per­spec­tive is a sim­ple av­enue that can help pro­mote a health­ier level of well­be­ing for a fam­ily.

HEALTH, WELL­NESS AND MIND­FUL­NESS

His­tor­i­cally, health fo­cus has been based on a dis­ease model in which health is de­fined only in the ab­sence of, or by elim­i­nat­ing, symp­toms, dis­tress, and dis­or­der. We are now see­ing an emerg­ing trend and shift from the dis­ease par­a­digm to a well­ness par­a­digm. Whilst there is still de­bate over what fea­tures make up hu­man ‘well­ness’, what is ev­i­dent is that well­ness is a mul­ti­di­men­sional state of be­ing. Co-founder of the Na­tional Well­ness In­sti­tute, Dr. Bill Het­tler, has de­vel­oped a six-di­men­sion well­ness model, which in­cludes emo­tional, oc­cu­pa­tional, phys­i­cal, so­cial, in­tel­lec­tual, and spir­i­tual el­e­ments of well­ness. The In­sti­tute goes on to de­fine well­ness as an “ac­tive process through which peo­ple be­come aware of, and make choices to­ward, a more suc­cess­ful ex­is­tence.” This im­plies that a more ac­tive, self-re­spon­si­ble role is re­quired to achieve in­di­vid­ual well-be­ing.

The goal of an al­ter­na­tive ther­apy is to en­hance at least one well­ness di­men­sion to in­crease an in­di­vid­ual’s life sat­is­fac­tion and sense of well-be­ing. Mind­ful­ness prac­tice can have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on an in­di­vid­ual’s spir­i­tual and emo­tional well-be­ing, en­hanc­ing more than one well­ness di­men­sion. This in­ter­re­lated na­ture means that in­creas­ing spir­i­tual or emo­tional well-be­ing may also boost other as­pects of well­ness.

Rais­ing chil­dren im­pacts both ends of the well­ness spec­trum. Chil­dren can pro­vide mean­ing to our worlds, a sense of pur­pose, un­con­di­tional love, joy, and end­less mo­ments of amuse­ment, all of which serve to en­hance life sat­is­fac­tion. On the other hand, life with chil­dren can be ut­ter mad­ness at times. The con­stant de­mands that par­ent­ing brings to an al­ready chaotic life can be stress­ful and chal­leng­ing. It can lead to ex­haus­tion and in­creased stress lev­els, es­pe­cially when the chil­dren are young, which can di­min­ish a par­ent’s well-be­ing.

Our par­ent­ing de­fault mode of­ten re­lies on neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive en­coun­ters from our own child­hood to help us nav­i­gate the ever-chang­ing ter­rain of chil­drea­r­ing. This au­topi­lot, non-con­scious, way of par­ent­ing shuts us off from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and con­nect­ing with our child. Mind­ful par­ent­ing serves to bridge that gap by fo­cus­ing on the mu­tual in­ter­re­lat­ed­ness of both the par­ents' and child’s well­be­ing.

MIND­FUL PAR­ENT­ING

Mind­ful par­ent­ing is an ex­ten­sion of Jon Ka­bat-zinn’s mind­ful­ness work. Ac­cord­ing to Jon, mind­ful­ness is the aware­ness that comes from pay­ing at­ten­tion to the present mo­ment with­out judge­ment. To con­tex­tu­alise this, mind­ful par­ent­ing is the skill in pay­ing at­ten­tion to your child in a present, in­ten­tional, and non-judge­men­tal way. It’s the at­ten­tion we di­rectly give, as a par­ent, to the in­ter­ac­tions we have with our chil­dren.

BEN­E­FITS OF MIND­FUL PAR­ENT­ING

Mind­ful par­ent­ing is not about re­mov­ing feel­ings of fear, frus­tra­tion or re­sent­ment, but more so about ac­knowl­edg­ing th­ese feel­ings so that one can en­gage greater wis­dom, clar­ity and so­lu­tions to prob­lems. Ev­i­dence sug­gests that mind­ful par­ent­ing im­proves com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the par­ent and child, aug­ments par­ent­ing sat­is­fac­tion, re­duces stress, and im­proves chil­dren’s be­hav­iours. It is associated with higher qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ences and can en­hance a par­ent’s com­pas­sion, lis­ten­ing, and en­gage­ment with their child. Us­ing mind­ful par­ent­ing tech­niques with my fam­ily has in­fin­itely en­hanced the mo­ments we share

to­gether. It has pro­vided height­ened ex­pe­ri­ences as we fo­cus on what is hap­pen­ing in the now, and boosted the well-be­ing of the fam­ily.

PRAC­TIC­ING MIND­FUL PAR­ENT­ING

In­ner work is re­quired in or­der to par­ent con­sciously, re­quir­ing both aware­ness and at­ten­tion. Con­sider an in­for­mal prac­tice to be­gin with. Start with fo­cus­ing on your breath or im­mers­ing your­self, fully en­gaged, in con­ver­sa­tions or ac­tiv­i­ties with your child.

A more for­mal prac­tice takes time and ef­fort. At the heart of mind­ful par­ent­ing is the abil­ity to nur­ture a child’s sovereignty through em­pa­thy and ac­cep­tance. The fol­low­ing ex­er­cises are ex­am­ples you can try to en­hance th­ese foun­da­tions: 1. Take some time to imag­ine the world from your child’s view­point. This will help you un­der­stand what they might be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and how they might be feel­ing. 2. Imag­ine your child per­fect, just as they are. Be mind­ful of their sovereignty and ac­cept who they are with kind­ness. 3. Reg­u­larly prac­tice a lov­ing kind­ness med­i­ta­tion, in which you hold each child in your heart and in­wardly ex­press that they live happy and healthy and be free from harm. The adage ‘prac­tice makes per­fect’

holds true for mind­ful par­ent­ing. It’s not prac­tice in the tra­di­tional sense or the tech­nique that’s im­por­tant, it’s the full-bod­ied aware­ness and wake­ful­ness pres­ence that pro­vides the true value and ex­pe­ri­ence. This aware­ness leads to a more pos­i­tive ex­is­tence and an en­riched level of well-be­ing. ■

Re­sources for this ar­ti­cle can be found on­line at www.liv­ing­now.com.au

Ap­proach­ing par­ent­ing from a mind­ful per­spec­tive is a sim­ple av­enue that can help pro­mote a health­ier level of well-be­ing for a fam­ily.

Con­nect with other read­ers & com­ment on this ar­ti­cle at www.liv­ing­now.com.au

Me­gan Hate­ley has been prac­tis­ing med­i­ta­tion for over 15 years, has trained in mind­ful­ness-based stress re­duc­tion with Open­ground, has a Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Well­ness (RMIT) and is un­der­tak­ing a Mas­ters in Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy (MELB). She is pas­sion­ate about en­hanc­ing the well­be­ing of her fam­ily and shar­ing her knowl­edge with oth­ers.

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