Learn how practicing mindfulness can help you and your kids.
Feel like you’re always running on an empty tank because you have to live in the past, present, and future all at once? That you can’t enjoy your children because they’re always stressed, or you’re always worried? Does chaos chase away calm, and leave everyone tense and drained? Scared that it will always be that way?
We hear you! We have lots of ideas to help, but here’s a place to start: try practicing mindfulness.
Why Do You Need to Practice Mindfulness?
Let me guess: you spend a lot of time worrying about your child’s future, right? Anxiety and worry can be constant companions, distracting you from being with your kids where they are today. Will they do well in school? Will they make friends? Will they be able to succeed in a job? And if they do, will they be able to remember where their car keys are when they’re 25 and late for work?
And if you’re not living in the future, you’re living in the past. Maybe you blew up at your kid last night, and now, all you can do is think about what you should have done, rather than moving forward. Exhausted yet?
…And Why Do Your Kids?
Adults often believe children live carefree and in the moment. Well, maybe, but I sure don’t parent those kids! The reality is that our kids experience a lot of stress and pressure to perform, which is compounded if they have ADD, Anxiety or other "complex" needs..
They can become hyper-focused on and consumed by worries: do my friends like me? Will I get good grades? Will I get into the college I want? Will my sister stop bugging me? How can I get mom to stop yelling at me and be happy with me? Will I ever do well? They just can’t operate in the present, and tend to “act out” as a result of these stressors and thoughts.
Mindfulness is about getting our kids (and ourselves) away from their worries and bringing the focus to the present. It can alleviate stress and anxiety – which can reduce meltdowns and other chaotic behavior.
Reap What You Sow: The Benefits of Mindfulness
Don’t worry: you don’t need scented candles, a shaman, Gregorian chants, or expensive yoga mats. All mindfulness really means is consciously focusing your attention on the present. Which can be hard. At first, anyway. But the benefits are worth it, especially in homes with complex kids. What are those benefits? Glad you asked:
- Emotional stability
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced depression, stress, and anxiety
- Increased focus and attention
Mindfulness can create a domino effect – in a good way! Emotional stability leads to calmer homes, which leads to less anxiety, which helps sleep, which improves focus, which helps at school, which relieves more stress. Which leads to happy kids and happy parents.
But wait, there’s more. Harvard researchers found that mindfulness actually creates measurable changes in the brain! Participants in the study practiced mindfulness for only about 27 minutes per day for 8 weeks, and the area of the brain that increased (hippocampus) involved learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. At the same time, the area associated with stress and anxiety (amygdala) decreased in size. So with mindfulness, not only can you relieve symptoms in your child or yourself, you can train your brain for lasting and positive results.
Practicing mindfulness can help you become a calmer parent, so you can respond rather than react! Research also shows that when someone practices mindfulness, those around her can benefit. How? It encourages the practitioner to be more aware of herself and others. This helps her “respond” to a situation rather than “react.” In practice, that means it can help you empower your kid to take a moment to think and calm down before becoming a hot mess.
When you help your child start and maintain a practice of her own, she can cope with her ADHD symptoms more successfully and learn to handle stress in a healthy way. Start now. With some simple steps and commitment, you can begin to see real – and wonderful – differences. Mindfulness can help tame the chaos and complexity, while creating a loving home that is welcoming, relaxing, and fun (at least most of the time!)
Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster, founders of ImpactADHD.com, teach/write about practical strategies to parents of “complex” kids with ADHD and related challenges. To help your kids find the motivation to get anything done, download their free parent’s guide, The Parent’s Guide to Motivating Your Complex Child.
This article was originally published at ImpactADHD. Reprinted with permission from the author.