What is mindfulness and how can it improve our family life?
We were delighted to recently interview Tessa Watt, one of the Mindful Living Show's speakers and panellists. She gives us the benefit of her expertise on mindful parenting and helps answer some questions about how we can develop mindfulness in the family environment.
What is mindfulness?
How can I use mindfulness to reduce my toddler’s tantrums?
When a toddler throws a tantrum, often our own reactions can inflame it further. Instead of adding our own emotions into the mix, we can take a few breaths and calm our own mind and body. Then we can respond more empathetically and wisely to the situation.
My child has a problem sleeping – would mindfulness help?
My child’s behaviour causes me a lot of stress – I feel I’m constantly shouting or nagging, can mindfulness really help me and how?
Mindfulness helps us to be more aware of our own emotions without letting them trigger us into knee-jerk reactions. Gradually we discover how to notice and feel the body sensations associated with our stress, anger or irritation, without having to act them out by shouting at our kids. In the quiet 'laboratory conditions' of our mindfulness practice, we discover that when irritations and unhelpful impulses come up, we can let ourselves feel them without judgement, as a natural part of being human. But we don't have to act on them. This training helps us to respond more calmly when our children press our buttons throughout the day.
What is the best way to introduce mindfulness to my toddler / child?
Can mindfulness benefit my teenager’s aggressive behaviour?
Teenagers often experience emotions that they don't know how to handle. Mindfulness gives them the tools to notice, feel and name their emotions rather than lashing out at other people. The wonderful Mindfulness in Schools project (MiSP) has created a mindfulness curriculum with short practices specially designed for secondary age students. Many students say that mindfulness helps them handle the pressures and stresses they feel at school, at home and in their peer groups.
Could mindfulness help our family to communicate better?
Often we are so caught up in our own thoughts and plans, we don't really listen to other people. Mindfulness helps us to step back from our own mental chatter and be more aware of others and their needs. We can practice 'mindful listening' by simply being present for the other person, and giving them space to talk without imposing our own agenda. As one person in a family consciously practicing mindfulness in this way, you may find that you are modelling it for the others, and quietly encouraging them to listen with greater attention and empathy. You can also bring in family rituals that encourage reflection together: for example at dinner time, each person could share one thing they enjoyed during the day. This can also be a powerful training for children in how to notice what's good in their lives, even when things are difficult.
Tessa Watt is co-presenter of Quility (quility.me), a mindfulness app especially for parents. She is co-director of Being Mindful (beingmindful.co.uk) which offers regular courses in Mindfulness and Mindful Parenting in central and south London.
Tessa is chairing a session on 'Being a Mindful Parent' at the Mindful Living Show on Friday 2 June (15:20-15:50)