In celebration of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 10), I advocate for the most valuable gift we can give to our children…mindful parents and caregivers!!!
Mindfulness does not require meditating regularly (though it is helpful). Mindfulness is a way of being, rather than doing. Being a mindful parent/caretaker means being fully present in the moment, with an intention of not judging…not your children, not yourself or your circumstances.
What puts children at risk for mental health difficulties? Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the strongest predictors developing mental disorders in young adulthood. We may or may not be able to prevent our children from experiencing ACEs (child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness of a parent, loss of a parent, and incarceration of a parent).
However, a healthy relationship with a parent/caregiver can boost their coping skills for any adverse event throughout their lifespan (not just in childhood). Most importantly, we want them to reach out for help of trusted adults in the midst of adversity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because every child is unique, cultural values are infinitely rich, and our parenting/teaching styles are constantly evolving.
In my experience as early childhood therapist/consultant, as well as mother of two spirited children, it is this full presence in the moment that allows the adults to reflect on the critical inquiries: Who is this person, who happens to be a child? How are their personalities unique and surprising? What are their natural strengths and challenges? How are their minds changing with biological maturation and life’s happenings? What is their response to a certain adverse experience? How can we support the path that they are on on? What is my emotional reaction to them and how may it affect them? Am I modeling compassion towards others ad myself?
Being fully present in the moment implies focusing on the process rather than the outcome; thus, noticing those small gifts that we miss when we are on automatic pilot. It also requires accepting children they way they are, without comparing them to other children or to ourselves at their age, without regretting the past or fearing the future, without projecting our dreams on them…I know, this sounds impossible to achieve!!! We do not achieve this, we practice our best effort to be mindful in each moment, and the next one, and the next one…and we reach out for support too!
Please contact me to share your thoughts, and request further resources or consultations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My favorite inspirational reads:
Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Works of Mindful Parenting by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
Hot Mess to Mindful Mom by Ali Katz