Parenting is challenging at any time of year and back to school season can be particularly tough. As summer winds down and school begins, both parents and kids can struggle to adapt to new routines, after-school activities, homework and packed schedules.
One tool to ease the transition from summer to school is mindful parenting. Mindful parenting doesn’t mean being a perfect parent, but it does mean bringing the principles of mindfulness – bringing your conscious attention to what’s happening within you and around you – into your daily life.
Justin Parent, lead researcher in the field of mindful parenting, defines three key components of mindful parenting:
- Noticing your own feelings when you’re in conflict with your child,
- Learning to pause before responding in anger,
- Listening carefully to a child’s viewpoint even when disagreeing with it.
In their analysis, Parent and his team of researchers found that parents higher in these components of mindful parenting demonstrated less negative emotion and more shared positive emotion with their children in the conversations than those lower in mindful parenting. What’s more, children who experienced these aspects of mindful parenting were less likely to use drugs or suffer with depression or anxiety.
Improve the well-being of yourself and your family by incorporating these mindful tips into your back-to-school season:
- Talk About the Transition: Practice open, mindful communication about the shift from summertime to back-to-school. Set aside time to talk to your kids without distractions (sometimes time in the car works well; sometimes it’s hanging out on the couch and talking). Share your thoughts, hopes, and feelings about the upcoming school year. Invite them to share as well, listening to understand rather than to change or fix. This process will help both you and your children become more comfortable with the upcoming shift. Plus, it creates a foundation for open, honest dialogue to continue throughout the school year.
- Practice Responding Instead of Reacting: Back-to-school season is a stressful time of year, and it’s easy to lose your temper. Instead of fighting against stress or strong emotions, use mindful pauses to create space between stimulus and response. When you feel triggered, try the S.T.O.P. technique:
- Stop what you’re doing
- Take a few deep breaths
- Observe your experience (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations)
- Proceed with something that will support you in this moment.
With this technique in your back pocket, you might even begin to see frustrations as opportunities to model peace and presence for your family.
- Stay Positive: While it’s easy to bemoan the changes necessary to adapt to school time, staying positive will make the transition much more enjoyable. One of the best ways to cultivate positivity is through a simple daily practice of gratitude – looking for what’s right instead of what’s wrong. Consider writing three things you’re grateful for every day and sharing the list with you kids, or going around the dinner table at night to share one thing you’re grateful for. Modeling an optimistic and resilient mindset will help you and your kids transition seamlessly from summer to school season.
- Make Mindfulness a Daily Activity: A season of change (like back-to-school season) is a great time to start a new healthy habit (like mindfulness!). Consider incorporating a daily formal mindfulness meditation practice like sitting with awareness of breath or body for five minutes. You could also practice mindfulness informally by bringing your full attention into daily activities such as eating a snack, talking to your co-worker, or walking from your car into the office. Taking a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness will help you boost your self-awareness and help you manage stress more effectively.
Practicing mindful parenting is a healthy way to ease the stress and emotions that come along with the back-to-school season. To learn more about mindfulness skills for daily life, join me at an upcoming Mastermind Meditation workshop in Dallas!
Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
– Robert Fulghum
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.