Teenagers

  • Enriching Parenting with Mindfulness

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    It’s often said that time seems to speed up as we get older. Weeks whizz by, then months and then seasons, and before we know it we’re shaking our heads in disbelief as another year has passed. Adding children into the mix intensifies this feeling.

     

    With so many precious milestones we have more opportunity to wonder how they can be crawling already, or putting sentences together or waving goodbye at the school gates for the first time. Surely we only brought them home from the hospital yesterday?

    Mindfulness offers many benefits to parents, but a key one is that it helps us to truly appreciate the fleeting moments we have with our children.

    As parents, life is often hectic: we feel we must focus on the logistics of getting things done and ushering everyone through the day’s schedule. Continually planning our next move prevents us from being mindful.

    But when we pause and engage with the present moment we are more likely to notice the little things that make life so sweet. This helps us to strengthen our connection with our children, as well as adding to our sense of wellbeing and feeling of gratitude.

    Being mindful also enables us to appreciate the transitional times, rather than just focusing on the agenda items: sometimes the walk to the park can be as much of an adventure as the park itself.

    Mindful parents take as much opportunity to connect with their kids as they can. We tend to talk about ‘quality time’, but really any time spent together can be made meaningful. Being present during seemingly mundane interactions is just as beneficial as making time for mindful play or other focused activities.

    Pausing for a quick cuddle during the breakfast rush, or making a game out of packing bags for the day, makes our daily schedule more enjoyable as well as building closeness.

    Morning and evening routines sometimes feel like chores when we’re tired or stressed, but approaching these mindfully can make them more pleasurable. Mindfulness can be a way to ease parental stress.

    Modelling mindful behaviour is also the best way for parents to encourage kids to adopt it for themselves, and mealtimes and shared routines are a great opportunity to do this.

    Giving someone your full attention is a great gift, and making the effort to truly listen to our children has many benefits. As well as allowing them to feel heard and understood, we are better placed to uncover any issues that may be hiding behind words or behaviour. When we allow ourselves to tune into and be led by our children’s cues, we ensure we are meeting their needs.

    And, although it may feel like it at times, of course parenting isn’t all about the child! Practicing mindfulness also ensures that we are attuned to our stress triggers and are able to regulate our responses. This enables us to parent from a place of calm, with kindness and empathy, and encouraging us to remain positive even during challenging days.

    Mindful parenting helps us to really value the transient time we have with our children and they, in turn, will thrive as we strengthen the parent-child bond.

    Explore our introduction to mindful parenting article or join a course or workshop to learn more.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs a range of courses and workshops. View our calendar of upcoming events. 

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    • Marina

      Mindfulness practice has made such a huge impact on my life but the biggest change has definitely been in my parenting. I now recognize and am present with the joyful moments rather than always being carried away by the more difficult ones. I am teaching my children to do the same. <3

      Reply
      • TMP Admin

        Thanks for your comment, it's lovely to hear how mindfulness has had a good impact on your parenting. Warm wishes.

  • Trying Out Mindfulness with Teenagers

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    Written by Gaia Martinelli-Bunzl

    Adolescence Is a Challenging Time

    Being a teenager can be tough. From exam stress, to discovering one’s identity and sometimes tricky relationships with parents and peers, there are a myriad of reasons why young people find it hard to cope with their emotions. Along with all the social pressures of adolescence, teenagers also have to cope with their biggest brain growth spurt since infancy. The teenage brain is learning how to grabble with impulse control, how to read and process emotions and how to start making decisions, whilst at the same time experiencing a surge of new oxytocin receptors which can result in a new, intense self-consciousness (many of us will certainly remember that!).

    As a teenager, I remember the constant moods swings, peaks of anger (usually directed towards my parents), and acute stress over tests and exams.  I would long for the day high school would finish and when my life would ‘finally begin’. My studies were completely academic, and no one ever taught me about how my mind worked or how to deal with all these new emotions and onslaught of thoughts.

    The Magic Art of Mindfulness

     Fast forward to my early twenties. I was lucky enough to be introduced to mindfulness by my mother, and my life completely changed. I no longer felt like I was the victim of my thoughts and emotions. I learned to embrace and accept myself with more patience and kindness. I can truly say that there was a before and after mindfulness. In fact, I’m not sure how I survived life before it.

    Motivated by this personal experience, I began to think about how different my choices and experiences in life would have been had I learned mindfulness at a younger age. And I became convinced that all children and adolescents should learn it as soon as possible to help shape their lives in a positive way.

    Teaching mindfulness to teenagers is an incredible honour. I love being able to empower them with tools which help them become more aware of their emotions and thoughts, and how to deal with difficulties in a more skilful way.

    Get a Taste of Mindfulness with this Simple Practice

    Here is a simple practice to give a flavour of mindfulness to adolescents. This exercise helps to expand their awareness of their experience and notice what is happening in their mind and body, helping them to become more present.

    A parent, friend or sibling can guide it, by reading the following instructions and pausing for a few moments in between each sentence.

    Instructions:

    Begin by sitting in a comfortable, upright position. Let the shoulders relax, and have your hands gently resting on your lap.

    Let your eyes close or gently lower your gaze.

    Notice one in breath and one out breath.

    Notice where in your body you feel your breath the most.

    Notice your feet touching the floor.

    Notice where your body touches the chair.

    Notice your hands touching.

    Notice one in breath and one out breath.

    Notice how your mind feels right now.

    Remember something that happened yesterday.

    Bring your mind back to right now.

    Notice one in breath and one out breath.

    Imagine something that might happen tomorrow.

    Bring your mind back to right now.

    Notice one in breath and one out breath.

    Bring your attention to your right foot.

    Bring your attention to your left leg.

    Bring your attention to your shoulders.

    Bring your attention to your left arm.

    Bring your attention to behind your eyes.

    Bring your attention to your ears.

    Notice one in breath and one out breath.

    Notice how your mind feels right now.

    Bring your attention to the sounds in the room.

    Open your eyes.

    You can stretch your body if you feel like it.

    What did you notice when you did this practice?

    Was it hard to focus your attention on the different parts of your body?

     

    This practice is adapted from the Mindful Schools Curriculum.

     

    Explore our mindfulness courses, masterclasses and workshops.

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    • Marina

      Mindfulness practice has made such a huge impact on my life but the biggest change has definitely been in my parenting. I now recognize and am present with the joyful moments rather than always being carried away by the more difficult ones. I am teaching my children to do the same. <3

      Reply
      • TMP Admin

        Thanks for your comment, it's lovely to hear how mindfulness has had a good impact on your parenting. Warm wishes.

  • An Introduction to Mindful Parenting

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    Cultivating mindfulness in our role as parents will certainly be a challenge at times, however the benefits that mindful parenting can bring make it a challenge worth accepting.

     

    By being present with our children, and our own emotional process, we can make better decisions and react with greater clarity and compassion.

    Children Are Already Half Way There

    Small children easily switch from one emotion to another, without clinging to previous thoughts or feelings. In this sense, they are already present; they are in the moment with each emotion.

    However, what children lack is conscious awareness of their experience. They don’t yet have the language to explain their feelings, and so they express them through their behaviour. They don’t know what it means to be angry, sad, disappointed or exhausted, just that they feel the discomfort from it.

    As parents, it’s up to us to teach children about their emotions, to give them words for their feelings, to help them understand why those feelings have arisen, and about how to deal with them. Meeting these experiences with mindfulness means that we can do this is an effective and compassion way.

    Modelling Mindfulness

    Compared to other species, human beings are born “immature”. What this means is that our minds are more open to learning from the environment we are born into, rather than having a set of fixed instincts and reflexes.

    A major way that we learn how to fit into our environment as children is through imitation. A good example of this is when babies play with toy telephones, lifting it up to their ear and pretending to talk. There is no evolutionary need for a baby to know how to use a telephone; they do it because they have watched us do it many times. 

    This really highlights the importance of mindful parenting. Say for example that our child is having a tantrum; if we yell at them to calm down, what they are learning from is our angry tone, not our words. If we can practice mindfulness, and incorporate it into our day-to-day way of being, we can successfully demonstrate mindfulness to our children so that they can imitate it and learn from it.

    Where to Start?

    The best first step to mindful parenting is to practice mindfulness for ourselves. It may be useful to look through our blog for tips on how to become more mindful in different areas of life, or to sign up for one of our courses or workshops.

    Our Lab also offers lots of free meditation links, articles and videos to get you started. Most importantly, practicing mindfulness for ourselves will help us cope better with the challenges of parenting, so that we can enjoy less stressful lives.

    And Then….

    When we start to become more aware of our own thought processes, emotions and reactions, this will change the relationship we have with our children for the better.

    We can step out of reactivity (although of course we’re only human and will still get caught in emotional reaction sometimes) and into being more present with whatever our children are going through in the moment.

    Read on for some practical examples of mindful parenting...

    Avoiding Reoccurring Problems

    Albert Einstein famously described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Mindfulness can help us notice unhelpful or unproductive habits so that we can adopt new strategies.

    Say for example that going to the supermarket with our children is always a headache. Our child always ends up seeing something they want, we tell them they can’t have it, and so they become grouchy or angry.

    We may get so frustrated with their behaviour that we eventually cave in and let them have it, just so that we can get some peace. Situations like these can turn into regular patterns that cause a lot of stress.

    Being more mindful can help us pre-empt such situations and deal with them before they happen. We can, for example, explain to our child that we will only be buying what’s on our shopping list, and ask if there is anything they can think of now that they might like to add (within reason).

    We can create a routine whereby the family as a whole stops making impulse buys at the supermarket. This gives our child a structure that they know will always be in place.

    Owning Our Emotions

    Let’s face it, children can be a non-stop stream of changing emotions and challenging needs. It’s stressful, and this means that, like our children, we may find ourselves on an emotional rollercoaster.

    Although we don’t intend to, children can provide an easy outlet for our anger or frustration. We can talk to children in ways that another adult would not let us get away with. This is why it’s important to take a step back to acknowledge and own our emotions, so that we don’t unintentionally lash out at our children or make them responsible.

    There are different ways that we can take responsibility for our feelings. Sometimes we may need to explain to our children that we are feeling very angry, but that it isn’t their fault. Other times, it might mean that we need to make extra efforts to give ourselves self-care, i.e. that we arrange childcare so that we can take some time out.

    Self-soothing practices may also be useful, such as placing our hand on our chest, or giving ourselves a hug. In other words, sometimes we’ll need to be our own parent and look after our own wellbeing.

    Shifting Our Perspective

    Mindfulness helps us reframe situations so that we can see them from a different angle. Sometimes what we think of as ‘problems’ can actually be opportunities for growth and bonding.

    For example, in a situation where we discover that our child has lied to us about something, our immediate reaction may be of disappointment or anger. We may want to tell them off or punish them, with the aim of teaching them that it is wrong to lie. However, sometimes it may be more helpful to use the situation as a chance to understand our child better.

    Applying some openness or curiosity may help us find a deeper bond with our child. We can ask questions to find out why they felt they should lie, and try to reassure them that it is safe to tell us the truth. Of course, for this to work, we must be mindful of how we react to them when they do tell the truth. We may realise that we haven’t made it safe for them to come to us, and so this gives us the chance to be more present with them going forward.

    Parenting is a complex process; there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is why presence of mind is crucial, so that we can deal with each unique situation as it arises. By applying the key concepts of mindfulness, such as compassion and non-judgemental awareness, we can really enrich our family life.

     

    Join a mindfulness courses or workshops with The Mindfulness Project.

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    • Marina

      Mindfulness practice has made such a huge impact on my life but the biggest change has definitely been in my parenting. I now recognize and am present with the joyful moments rather than always being carried away by the more difficult ones. I am teaching my children to do the same. <3

      Reply
      • TMP Admin

        Thanks for your comment, it's lovely to hear how mindfulness has had a good impact on your parenting. Warm wishes.