Choosing your reactions just takes a little mindfulness.
It’s almost as though meditation was designed for parenting. Whether we look at it from the child’s point of view, or our own, the benefits are endless. Sure, it might be a little more difficult to find the time once we have children, but it’s well worth juggling a few things to make it happen.
And if there’s a second parent involved in bringing up your little munchkin(s), then work together to make it happen, find a routine that works for you both, where one person takes the kids for 15 minutes and then you swap over so the other person can get some headspace too. It won’t just help with the parenting, it might just breathe some fresh life into your relationship too.
As some of you will know, I’ve got all this to come yet and with a little one arriving in early August, I still have everything to learn when it comes to parenting. But over the years I’ve heard back from so many parents who have witnessed the benefits of meditation in their relationships with their children, that I thought I would put together a short list of some of the more memorable ones. It’s by no means exhaustive and hopefully you’ll add to the list in the space below. But it does give a good indication of just how wide-ranging the benefits can be and how important it is to get some headspace on a daily basis when you’ve got kids in the mix.
Oh, and funnily enough, as much as meditation benefits life as a parent, you may at times find the experience of being a parent benefits your meditation too.
1) It can be a shock to the system when a baby arrives, especially if we’re used to doing what we want, when we want. Meditation points us in the direction of selflessness, where it’s less about what we want for ourselves and more about what we would like for others. Useful at any stage of parenting.
2) Ever screamed at your child and then spent the entire next day wishing you hadn’t? Yeah, you and pretty much every other parent on the planet. Meditation shows us how to be less reactive to fleeting emotions and instead to respond from a place of clarity. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen anymore, but it might just happen a little less.
3) It doesn’t matter whether it’s letting them take their first few steps on their own, or waving them goodbye as they head off backpacking around the world, parenting is about letting go. Fortunately, meditation is too and, with a little practice, we can make this journey of relinquishing control feel a whole lot more enjoyable.
4 ) I’ve never met an adult who complained that their parents never bought them enough stuff. But I’ve met plenty who’ve said they never got enough attention growing up. Meditation encourages us to step out of our busy mind and instead be completely present, with our whole-hearted attention. What child wouldn’t appreciate that?
5) It’s normal to feel tired and frustrated if we have a little too much going on in life. When that’s taken out on the little ones though, who have no understanding of why we feel like that, it can appear a little unfair. Meditation helps us to feel less tired and more patient. Even if we don’t do it for ourselves, other members of the family may well appreciate it.
6) What with being parents 24 hours a day, together with housework, careers and whatever else you might have on your plate, it’s really easy to lose touch with your partner. Meditation shows us how to have more mental and emotional space for these things, how to be more sensitive to their needs and kinder in our actions.
7) As the little one turns in to, well, a bigger one, it’s common to feel as though we are losing that special connection with them. But meditation shows us that the connection we fear losing is actually ever-present, it is not something which can ever be lost and, when we close our eyes in meditation, we experience that feeling all over again.
8) On the one hand there’s the reality of a situation and, on the other, an idea of what we want the reality of the situation to be. The space between these two things tends to be a place of considerable stress and discomfort and is commonly experienced by parents. Meditation shows us how to accept reality a little more and resist reality a little less.
9) We never really know what to expect in life. Never is this more true than when we’ve got little one’s discovering a whole new world. With so much uncertainty, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed. But learning to rest in uncertainty is the very heart of meditation and the more we practise it, the more adept we become at being comfortable with it.
10) There is no greater gift we can give another person than to allow them to be who they are, free from the projections of what we would like them to be. This is no easy task as a parent. Fortunately, meditation weakens the tendency to project on to others, leaving the kids to grow up as they are, feeling as though they have all the space in the world.