Mindful parenting

This article was originally published by the Child Mind Institute

Cynthia Braun remembers too well what weekday mornings were like at home. As her husband had to leave early to go to work, it was up to Braun, a pediatrician with a consultation in Pleasantville, New York, for Anika and Devon, ages 6 and 3, to get up and they would get dressed, have breakfast, prepare lunch and take them to preschool. “Our morning routine was just a lot of work,” he says. “No one was doing what they were supposed to do. They didn’t care less about the time, while I ran like a chicken with my head cut off trying to do everything.”

It is a family setting for many parents with school-age children. And for parents of children with problems like ADHD, transition times like going to school or moving from one activity to another can be especially difficult. Another mother, Sandy Isaac, says that when not one of her children, but both of them, then 8 and 4 years old, were diagnosed with ADHD, it was very acceptable. He realized that things at home needed to change.

Both Braun and Isaac enrolled in Dr. Awareness-based parenting class. Mark Bertin. “I felt like I wasn’t a father as good as I wanted to be and I wanted to find out if my conscience could give me a better perspective and some strategies to implement,” says Braun.

Overwhelmed parents

Dr. Bertin, a developmental pediatrician who specializes in treating children with problems such as ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities, says he generally runs a fairly traditional medical practice. But he has been practicing mindfulness for almost 20 years. In 2007, it began offering Mindfulness-based stress reduction classes for parents of children with and without special challenges. “Often, when you have a child with ADHD, you have a very stressful family situation and I think one of the things that happens is that things are very focused on helping the children, which is fine, except for the parents. stressed and overwhelmed “.

The largest section of Dr. Bertin, The Family ADHD Solution, is dedicated to raising awareness for parents because, he says, “raising parents in general, but especially raising children with disabilities, is very, very stressful. And when it comes to ADHD, there is research showing that parents have a much higher risk of anxiety, depression and marital stress. “

It reduces things

Braun says that through the class of Dr. Not only did Bertin develop a practice of self-awareness (which includes guided mediation, body exploration, and breathing exercises), but he also learned that slowing things down, taking a step back, and observing his own reactions gave him perspective. to effectively restructure his family’s morning routine. “I noticed that he was pushing them to do things very quickly. He’s three years old, he wants to choose his own clothes, and if he puts it upside down, I was realizing that it’s okay. It’s okay that they don’t match. “It doesn’t matter if they have toothpaste on their T-shirts. Things don’t have to be a certain way. I’m going to make my morning slower. I’ll wake them up sooner. I’ll have to get up earlier, but I want to.” let our mornings start with a good mood instead of all this stress and hurry ‘”.

Conscious mornings may be less efficient, but they are more enjoyable. “What’s happening now is all there is to it,” Braun adds. “Why make everyone unhappy? If we go to the nursery school five minutes late, nothing changes. What changes things is the frustration and stress that builds up and then everything falls apart. “

Isaac says he learned from Dr. Bertin techniques to keep things from escalating when someone is not on board with whatever the agenda is. “It provides a great insight into really taking the time to step back,” he says, “and look at what this situation creates and curb people.

Prepare children for success

Slowing down life in general seems to be a common theme, something simple but important for parents, especially parents of children with ADHD and other disorders that involve difficult behaviors, to do: breathe and listen to what their children are trying to do. tell them about their behavior. “It makes you stop and think about how you’re doing things as a parent and how you’re preparing things for success or not,” Issac says. “If you have two kids with these things and you do the routine of the first day when everyone is in a hurry, they’re in a hurry, and you put too much into it, there’s not enough downtime, that’s just a recipe to make it worse. ”

Parents, Issac says, often forget what their children need. “Because the other part of it is, and I don’t think I can speak for myself,” he says.

Stress is contagious

When parents are stressed that stress is contagious; Children know when their parents are tense and overwhelmed. In fact, according to Dr. Amy Saltzman, a holistic physician and mindfulness coach (and creator of the Still Quiet Place CDs for Kids and Teens), the data show that the biggest source of stress in children and teens is not schoolwork. , extracurricular activities, or peer pressure, but parental stress. ” So being a good parent means learning to manage your own stress.

Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a psychologist who uses mindfulness in her Los Angeles practice, believes that parents often have an innate sense of inadequacy when it comes to their own children. When it comes to parenting, says Dr. Goldstein, “much of the job is to learn to make peace with our imperfections. Because we will do things that will lead our children to therapy, we will do things that our children will do. We can hit ourselves. But if we were able to make peace with our imperfections and begin to regulate our emotional state, we could be calmer and more present with our children and cultivate a little self-compassion. “

End perfectionism

Ending perfectionism can also be a good example for children, notes Dr. Goldstein, whose mindfulness book The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life includes a chapter on parenting. “Parents serve as role models for children,” he says. “Children are sponges. So, bottom line is that we’re really looking forward to it.

“For parents of children with problems like ADHD, transition times can be especially difficult.”

There is science that shows that taking a deep breath and staying calm when your children are pushing you to the limit actually causes positive changes in your brain. Let’s say a long, rainy Sunday is over and you’ve been trapped inside with three small children. One child is grabbing another, who in turn cries, while the third spills juice all over the floor. “If you can only tell yourself at the time,‘ This is chaos, ’” says Dr. Goldstein, “not in an anxious or fearful way, but just say it, the research shows us that we volume of the amygdala, which is the fear circuit of the brain, and brings more activity to the prefrontal cortex so that we can be more aware of what is happening right now.

Create a secure environment

Your calm response also helps children calm down, he says. “They say, ‘Okay, I can trust my parents to be in control, this is a safe environment.’ And they feel more secure and growing up.

There seems to be no right way to be a conscious parent. Fortunately, there are many correct ways. Sometimes the slightest adjustment in a child’s schedule can change the day-to-day life of an entire family. And sometimes Dr. Bertin says, “It’s as simple as practicing paying full attention to our children, with openness and compassion, and maybe that’s enough at any time.”

Juliann Garey is a journalist, novelist and clinical assistant professor at NYU. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Marie Claire; her novel, Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See, won the American Library Association Award and Best Book of the Year NPR in 2013.

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