At some point all parents have heard, "appreciate these moments
with your children, they go so fast." This is usually heartfelt and
well-intentioned advice, but sometimes it can leave a feeling of
unease.Enjoying the moment is simple in concept, but not
necessarily easy to do.
To really appreciate moments and be present for our children, we
need to understand mindfulness-the practice of being present, of
being right here, right now. We may think we are here, but most of
the time our mind is elsewhere.
Mindfulness is about glimpses. It's a moment when you feel great
happiness or gratitude; it's a moment when you fully realize the
beauty of your child; it's a moment when you find courage you never
thought you had or a moment when you realize what is most important
in your life.
Three things to keep in mind
You may think these glimpses are flukes, but this kind of
mindfulness is always an option: it's a clear and more present way
to view any situation.
Although there are many different ways to experience
mindfulness, here are three simple practices to get your
1 Breathe. Nothing brings you in tune with the
present moment quite like a full, deep breath. Our body can breathe
without our attention (just like our brain can think without our
attention), but when we bring attention to the breath, it connects
body and mind and allows us to be aware of the moment. It also
allows us to let go of fear and worry.
If our children frustrate us, we can take a deep breath before
we respond. If we are late for a practice or sporting event, we can
take a deep breath in the car so we drive more consciously. We can
take a deep breath as we look at our kids so we fully experience
who they are in that moment-their age, their beauty, their voice
and everything else we love about them.
Once you incorporate deep breathing into your life, teach your
children. Remind them to breathe when they are upset to help calm
their body down, remind them to breathe when they are nervous
before a performance or a sporting event, or remind them to breathe
if they are feeling frustrated by their homework. Help them
incorporate breathing into their everyday experience so this tool
can serve them for a lifetime.
If the practice of deep breathing is difficult for you or you
aren't feeling the connection, consider taking a yoga class or a
pranayama (breath work) class where you are guided through the
process of breathing.
2 Be quiet. Life is busy and loud, and there is
always a computer, television or phone buzzing around us. We are
constantly bombarded by noise, billboards, music or anything that
can take our attention away from ourselves, so finding quiet has to
be a decision and a priority. Being quiet, even if it's for five
minutes a day, can bring you back to a state of calm.
You can enjoy quiet for yourself and you can practice being
quiet with your children. When you are together, you don't need to
fill up the space with chatter or noise-just be quiet sometimes and
enjoy the stillness. For some, this initially feels uncomfortable
because it's uncommon, but eventually it becomes a comfortable
Teach your children to appreciate the value of downtime and
quiet. They don't always need to be active or doing something,
sometimes they can just "be." Children usually do this naturally,
but as they move through life and become overscheduled or
overworked due to school, activities or our insistence, they begin
to lose touch with themselves.
To find quiet, you can connect with a specific meditation
practice or you can just sit quietly at some point during the day.
Don't make it more than it needs to be and don't place a lot of
expectations on your experience. Accept it for what it is-time
away, time for peace, time to balance, time to breathe.
3 Smile. This simple practice is a mood shifter
and it easily brings you back to center. You may be about to scream
at the top of your lungs, but a smile can push the energy into
laughing. You may be ready to throw something, but a smile allows
you to release what you are feeling in a less aggressive way.
Smiling is a confidence booster and it reminds you to reconnect
with your joy.
And smiling is a simple gift you can offer your children. Smile
at them when they walk out of their room in the morning, smile at
them as they speak so they know you are listening, smile at them as
they attempt something difficult so they feel supported. Smile at
them as they play sports, play with their friends or participate in
activities so they know you really see them and appreciate who they
It's amazing how many parents walk around with a scowl on their
face when they are with their children (start looking, you will
Be in the moment
The practice of mindfulness is a step toward truly being present
in the moment. Children live in the moment, so they are always
waiting for us to be present and look them in the eye instead of
being consumed by our endless worries and list of to-dos.
When we are in the moment, our kids connect to us on a deeper
level because they know we are listening-they feel the attention
and validation we have to offer.
Of course our words make a difference, but how we move through
life with our children makes more of a difference.
If we go through life mindlessly, we indeed will wake up and
wonder where the time has gone. But if we breathe, are quiet and
smile, we may discover a deeper, more connected relationship with
ourselves and our children.
Give a listen to Cathy and her husband Todd talk about this
column on Zen Parenting Radio.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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