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Mindful Parenting Practices for Stressful Times

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The most important thing parents can provide their children is being fully present and attentive. Yet, we know that doing so is very difficult because life always seems to get in the way, especially during uncertain times like COVID-19. Parents, your presence and engagement is invaluable to your teenager. However, when you are stressed, preoccupied, overwhelmed, or exhausted, it makes it understandably harder for you to be fully present with your teen.

These mindful parenting practices can help you to be more engaged when interacting with your teenagers, and may even improve your relationship with them in the long-term1. Even more so, these parenting practices may help you better manage the stresses that come along with parenting and may even lead you to feel more satisfied with your parenting skills2.

1. Emotional Check-Ins3

Mindful parenting begins with an emotional check-in. As parents, it is important for us to be aware of both our children’s emotions and our own (learn more about emotional awareness here). This includes being aware of the times when we, as parents, feel emotionally exhausted or checked-out, as well as the times when we feel strengthened and ready to be engaged with our teen.

Start by focusing your attention on your feelings and thoughts in the present moment. Ask yourself:

  • “How am I feeling right now?”
  • “What do I need for myself right now?”
  • “Do I have the capacity to be fully present and engaged with my teen?”
  • “What do I need to be able to engage with my teen right now?”

2. Present-Centered Attention

Parents, directing your full attention to your teens conveys that you are invested and interested in their life. However, as mentioned above, it is understandably difficult for us to do because so many things often get in the way.

To help you to fully engage with your teen:

  • First, remove all distractions—cell phones, housework, and television—and remind yourself that your attention and presence is invaluable to your teen.
  • Second, direct your full attention to your teen by listening attentively. Show interest in your teen’s life by asking questions and being curious about their life experiences.
  • Lastly, be enthusiastic and supportive towards their interests and hobbies.

3. Non-Judgmental Acceptance 

Parents, while you are listening and directing your full attention on your teen, it is also important to be non-judgmental towards their unique thoughts and feelings. This means accepting your child’s unique emotions and thoughts without judgment, even if they are different from yours.

Remind yourself:

  • “My teen has unique thoughts and feelings that might be different from mine, but that is okay.”
  • “I still accept my teen’s unique thoughts and feelings, even if they are different from mine.”

4. Compassion for the Self

Parenting is a difficult job that comes along with countless struggles and challenges. Having compassion for yourself as a parent means forgiving yourself, accepting mistakes, and avoiding self-blame when things don’t go as planned. Parents, it is important for you to remember and remind yourself that the challenges you face, and the mistakes you make are a healthy and normal part of parenting. With mindful self-compassion, we are better able to accept the fact that we cannot be perfect parents all the time, and also understand that we are doing the best that we can in our present situations.

Practice self-compassion by reminding yourself of these statements:

  • “I am doing the best that I can”
  • “I am overwhelmed right now and I need to take care of myself. It doesn’t mean that I am being selfish.”
  • “It’s okay if my teen gets angry or upset with me, it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad parent.”

Download these free 4 tips as a daily reminder to practice mindful parenting in trying times such as COVID-19 here.


References

1. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S., Singh, J., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., & McAleavey, K.M. (2007). Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavioral Modification, 31(6), 749-771.

2. Snyder, R., Shapiro, S. & Treleaven, D. Attachment Theory and Mindfulness. J Child Fam Stud 21, 709–717 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-011-9522-8

3. Duncan, L. G., Coatsworth, J. D., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). A model of mindful parenting: implications for parent-child relationships and prevention research. Clinical child and family psychology review, 12(3), 255–270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3

About the Author

Leanne Bishara

Leanne Bishara

Leanne Bishara is a PhD student in the clinical psychology program at Fuller's Graduate School of Psychology. As a clinician and researcher, Leanne is committed to bettering the lives of youth and advocating for positive parent-child relationships. She has presented at various psychological research conferences on the topics of parenting, positive youth development and emotion regulation. She brings resources and tips from the latest research in parenting and positive youth development.

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