- 1. Paint the picture. Sometimes you might think that you’re not quite the mother that you would like to be. We all have an image of our ideal selves and the relationship we would like to facilitate with our kids. So, the first step to becoming a mindful mother is to get clear on that image; the mother that you would like to be (or at least make a start; believe me, your image of yourself will develop through this process). Write it down, talk it out, paint, draw, dance. However you express it, bring that image into something concrete.
- Embrace the parenting fails. Nothing steers you in the right direction like going in the wrong direction. When you hit a bump in the road, accept it with a measure of forgiveness and utilise the opportunity to work out and understand what went wrong and what to do differently next time.
- Cool off. You’ve cooled down enough to recognise and accept your parenting fail, but you still may be feeling reactive. In order to begin working out what went wrong, you must be sure that you’ve separated yourself from the situation. Until you are able to claim the mental and physical space to self reflect, be sure to exercise calming techniques such as giving yourself a time-out, deep breathing etc.
- Once the storm passes. Now that you’re calm, you can reflect back and ask yourself, what happened? Here is where you want to practice your mindful awareness. Notice the range of thoughts and feelings that premised and accompanied your behaviour. What was happening for you before and during the event? You might find it helpful to write it down.
- Guilt be gone. It can be tempting to get stuck in regret and guilt over your parenting fails. In life, and the journey of motherhood, there are ups and downs. Though it’s tempting to bring into question the value of the ups in the face of the downs, remember that they are both mutually exclusive. That means that just because you hit a bump in the road, it doesn’t mean that your parenting wins lose any value.
Feeling of failure and guilt are inevitable; notice them and try to associate them with a belief or expectation that you have about yourself, your children or the world itself. You may find that the guilt is rooted in an unhelpful, habitual thinking pattern.
- Body, Mind and Heart Once you come to reflect on your interaction with your children, you will explore three elements of the experience, your physical experience, your thinking and your emotional experience.
Body scan. It’s not always clear what was going through our heads and hearts when we were having a melt down. As a start you can practice checking in with your body as a litmus test for your state of mind. With practice, you’ll be able to recognise the physical signals that you’re going down a reactive road and you’ll be able to stop, pause and redirect.
What was I thinking!? If possible, it is useful to identify the thoughts that premise and accompany your undesirable behaviour. Our thoughts reflect our automatic beliefs and expectations, and with awareness we can reassess their validity and value in our relationships, redirecting them to ones that are more representative of reality or what we would like our reality to be.
What was I feeling? Our thoughts are accompanied by emotions and, like our thoughts, we often react unconsciously to our emotional experiences. If you are able to identify your emotions, then you can be more conscious and prese in your interactions with your children. Enhancing your emotional awareness enables to your compartmentalise your experience so that it doesn’t flood into your interactions with your children or others. For example, if you are feeling saddened by bad news, and you believe that your children should be guarded from the information/sad feelings, you might push your children away from you if/when they approach you while you are in this state of sadness. However, if you can notice your sadness, accept it as your own, and take the necessary steps to comfort yourself, you will be far better equipped to recognise, receive and provide for your child’s practical and emotional needs.
- Where did it all begin? Like our thoughts, our emotional experiences, and our reactions to them, are often rooted in habitual patterns established early in life. In your pursuit of self-understanding, it is useful to ask yourself where these thoughts, beliefs, expectations and emotions came from. You may find in your explorations deeper issues from the past that continue to reappear in your present-day relationships. With this recognition, you are able to understand how you came to parent the way you parent and make conscious choices toward change and growth for the future generation.