Ask the Experts by Lori Warner, PhD
Q: I’ve heard about mindfulness, but I’m not into meditation. Last time I tried it, I just fell asleep. How can I be a mindful parent?
A: Many people think mindfulness and meditation are the same. Mindfulness is a broad concept that means having nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening around you. Mindfulness can be an active, energetic process, or a quiet, thoughtful one, depending on what is happening. Some people find meditation is a helpful tool to being more mindful, but there are many ways to improve our ability to be in the present moment. Being a mindful parent means looking, listening and sharing what is happening in our families. Mindfulness is a process, not a single goal.
Q: Will it really help me to be mindful when my child is having a tantrum? I get the idea of enjoying the fun moments, but why would I want to “be here now” when he is screaming and throwing a fit?
A: It sounds unusual, I know. But being more present and aware of what is going on with our kids can give us important clues as to why they are upset, and may give us better ideas about skills they need to learn or better ways to respond. “Tuning in” with our kids helps us connect and may actually help reduce problem behaviors, especially if the bad behavior is happening because our kids want us to pay more attention to them.
Q: Mindful parenting sounds great, but I am so rushed and stressed. How am I going to find time to fit this mindfulness stuff into my schedule?
A: Step-by-step — big changes start with small changes. Start with a one-minute meditation or a 10-minute walk (with no music) at lunch. Turn off the radio in your car to drive mindfully. When you are eating a snack, chew slowly and concentrate on every bite. Turn off hand-held devices and computer screens for just a few minutes every day to really see and hear what is going on around you. When you are talking to someone, remind yourself to focus on what he or she is saying and the topic of conversation.
Even if you cannot hit the mindfulness mark all the time, your efforts will make you more aware of the people you love. Start today and take a little time to build new mindful habits.
Dr. Warner is a clinical psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Assistant Director of the Center for Human Development at Beaumont Children’s Hospital, Director of the Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center and Associate Professor for Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. She can be reached at 248-691-4774 or visit www.beaumontchildrenshospital.com/hope. Beaumont Hospital is a member of the Family Center’s Association of Professionals.