We all worry about whether our children will grow up to be happy, confident and well-adjusted. As a result, as parents, we worry about how we are doing to prepare out children for the journey ahead. Due to wanting the best for them and the enormous amount of advice (often contradictory) from parenting experts, books, blogs, and well- meaning friends or family, we are constantly questioning ourselves and whether we are providing ‘good enough’ parenting. When they are younger, we question whether we are stimulating our child enough, or are we stimulating our child too much, do we spend too much time holding him, do we spend too much time encouraging him to self soothe. As they get older we question whether we are doing enough play-dates, or too many play-dates, encouraging too many extra-mural activities or not doing enough of these… the list is truly endless. The first step to mindful parenting is understanding that there is no right way of parenting – your goal should rather be about being a ‘good enough’ parent to your particular child.
In fact, what we learn from experience is that ‘good enough’ parenting is not about how much classical music we played to our babies in utero or whether they have the latest electronic gadgets, it is in fact about us being available and connected with our children on a daily basis. This means spending time with them just being in the moment and enjoying each other. This brings us back to two basic yet effective concepts that I am passionate about, being a mindful parent in that we take time to think about how we interact with our children. It also involves considering how what we think and what we do has a significant impact on the way that our children think and their perceptions of life and themselves. The other is special time – where we spend time (10 minutes a day) really being with them, without having another agenda except to enjoy whatever moment it is that your child wants to share with you. This gives the child the message that you enjoy spending time with them doing whatever it is that they enjoy, and that they are the ‘good enough’ child for you too – even if they didn’t get their homework done or finish tidying their room.
If we take this idea of being a mindful parent a bit further, it is also about being able to be, and trust that we are doing the right thing in the moment. Often, the best thing that we can do for our children is to put away the parenting books and consider what would happen if we trust our intuition. Sometimes the best way to do this is to make a list of what we think we should be doing and then re-read the list and question if it is something you want to be doing. Re-read the last bit – it simple yet powerful advice.
Children are resilient and individual and although there are some fundamental boundaries and helpful ways of interacting with them, they are also individuals and mothers usually know the best way to approach parenting their child. Mindful parenting is about taking a moment to reflect on how you are feeling and what you are doing, and also to be mindful of your needs, as if your needs are not being met, it is difficult to feel able to meet the needs of your children effectively. You need to allow yourself time to connect with your child, but also time to connect with yourself, partner, friends, wider family and other interests or career.
(If despite your best efforts, you are concerned about the emotional wellbeing of your child or are feeling overwhelmed in your parenting and experiencing high levels of anxiety, feelings of being unable to cope or low mood, do make sure that you talk to someone about it, and get the support that you need).