Mindful Parents Know How to Do One Thing

by April Hadley

What does it mean to be a mindful parent?

Is a mindful parent unusually kind? Is a mindful parent unusually happy? Is a mindful parent unusually patient? A mindful parent may be some of these things some of the time, but they are also something more. Rather, they practice something more.

This practice will help you become a wiser and more discerning parent.
It will help you become a calmer and less reactive parent.
It will help you let go of always trying to be perfect.

A mindful parent knows how to do one thing. A mindful parent knows how to sit with the f-word.

No. Not that f-word… the other f-word.

FEAR

Four little letters strung together that loom large in the parenting journey.

We fear the things that could happen to our children. We fear the choices they may make. We also fear that we will never be good enough.

Elizabeth Stone says, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide to forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Having your heart walk around outside of your body is scary. Fear will always be a part of the parenting journey.

In fact, fear is biologically hardwired into us. It is designed to get us to spring into action.

If your child runs out in the middle of the road, fear kicks in and you swoop them up! Or your teenager calls in the middle of the night (the one you thought was sleeping at a friends house) and informs you they are at a party that has gotten out of hand and they want to come home. Fear shows up and you return your child to safety once more.

But fear may also cause us to spring into action so fast that we react automatically and our actions may not be helpful to us or to our children.

We need a practice that helps us become discerning when fear is present. We must learn to work with fear instead of against it.

What is a mindful parent?

A mindful parent practices sitting with fear, in the present moment, and moves toward action if action is called for.

Paying attention to our fear in the present moment is vital. Our fears are almost always about some future possibility. The story telling part of our brain kicks into gear. We become fortune-tellers and spend much of our precious parenting energy focusing on those fears about the future.

But life can only be lived out in the present moment. Parenting can only be embraced in the present moment.

A mindful parent practices sitting with fear. It is a simple practice.
I Pause…I acknowledge my fear…I bring my attention back to the present…

Sometimes you may only need to sit with your fear for a minute or two and other times you may need to sit with it for a day or longer before you move toward action.

I Pause…I acknowledge my fear…I bring my attention back to the present…

The easiest way to put your attention in the present is to pause and feel your breath. Your breath is a wonderful tool because it is always in the present moment. Paying attention to your breath may also help you notice when you feel afraid.

I Pause…I acknowledge my fear…I bring my attention back to the present…

When we allow the fear to settle, we find clarity and discover our own deep wisdom for the parenting journey. When we name our felt experience, our emotions soften. They loosen their grip and we become more responsive and flexible.

Mindful parents are not perfect. They are not always patient or kind or happy. A mindful parent knows how to honor their fear, in the present moment, and to use the energy of fear to make wise and loving decisions one moment at a time.