Parenting is hard enough, but add in the challenge of a child with delay or disability and your tough job becomes almost insurmountable. Steady breathing, and a calm demeanor are not often attributed to parents of young children. Our children actually take our breath away when they act upon impulse or attempt a new challenge that puts them in danger. Of course the same is true when they accomplish something new or when they just crawl into our laps (and hearts) for some love. Our breath is actually tied to our children’s daily activity and to stop and think about breathing or centering our mind and body may seem unrealistic or a waste of our precious time. Rather than waste your time,however, daily mindfulness will increase your positive time with your child and your entire family.
Mindful breathing creates a calm and offers us a way to respond to life rather than react. It allows us time to be present for the moments that matter and to hold them for reflection before they become just a memory. Mindfulness teaches us to be kind and more importantly, teaches our children about self -regulation. If we practice mindfulness daily our children will learn from our model, and be more receptive to the needs of others. Jon Kabat –Zinn tells us, “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.” Living in the moment rather than getting through the day will increase your ability to be there for your child.
Begin with small changes to your day. Wake up to 5 long calm breaths, breathing in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth. Think of something positive and hold on to that as you breathe. Sometime later in the day, model purposeful breaths in front of your child and explain why you are doing it. Make sure you are comfortable and with no distractions ( cell phones, TV etc..). These practice sessions will be helpful when either you or your child are beginning to have a meltdown and need to find your center. Breathing will give you the time to make better decisions and will give your child a method to regain composure or regulate themselves.
Research from Dr. Kimberly Schonert Reichi found that children who practiced mindfulness had positive outcomes as they entered school. Concentration and interpersonal skills increased as did reading scores.
As we begin the new year, reflection on our old parenting methods might bring about change in the way we look at our challenges. Change can be difficult but once we begin to see the positive outcomes, mindful breathing may become part of our daily lives.
For more information: http://greatergood.berkley.edu/, https://childhood101.com/helping-children-manage-big-emotions/ and Mindful Discipline by Shapiro and White.