Raising the Mindful FamilyApril 18, 2019
Raising a family is anything but simple. Busy schedules, digital devices, long commutes—all of this leads to family members who are disconnected from each other as never before. Psychologists Stefanie and Elisha Goldstein show us ways to strengthen relationships, increase everyone’s well-being, and bring the family back together.
Adapted from a full-length article originally published in Mindful Magazine.
Raising the Mindful Self
Our first principle is “raising the mindful self” because each of us has to do our own work first, before looking at what others need to change. As parents, we’re all imperfect. And as life becomes increasingly stressful and hectic, it’s easy to fall into a routine of unhealthy, impulsive patterns that we may have inherited from our parents— despite the fact that we swore we would do it differently with our own family. One of the most important practices we’ve found for raising a mindful family is applying self-compassion during the stressful moments. Learning how to pause more frequently through the day can help you notice these patterns and provide insight into how you can reconnect to yourself, your partner (if you have one), and your children.
When you recognize you’re in a stressful moment, acknowledge the difficulty by saying, “This is hard right now.” Then ask yourself, “What do I need?”
Raising the Mindful Couple
Like most parents, we’ve experienced times when the quantity and quality of our connection has waned. Whether you’re in a partnership, recently out of one, or looking to be in one, setting the intention to nurture loving connections in your life is paramount for your own health and happiness. Each day gives us many opportunities to create and share micro-moments of connection with each other, and help sustain our love. It may be hard to believe that moments of positive connection can actually sustain us during the disconnected times, but they can and they do. Love is a renewable energy source and can be found in the tiniest of moments.
Decide to create at least one micro-moment of connection this week, both verbally and physically. Notice how you feel when you hold hands or give a gentle caress on the arm or cheek.
Raising the Mindful Child (and Parent)
Small children are so present with their experience that they usually don’t need help connecting to the moment. As children grow older, though, the complexities of social engagement, the pressures of school, and the distractions of technology play a significant role in their daily lives. If you’re staring at your phone while answering your child’s questions, you’re teaching them that fully listening isn’t that important. If you’re hyper-stressed and snap at the driver who just cut you off, you’re teaching them that acting out aggression is a healthy response to perceived slights. On the other hand, when you stop to help someone who dropped something on the street, you’re teaching them to give thought to others, the root of compassion. When you rebound from your mistakes instead of spiraling into shame, you’re modeling resilience.
To begin the “Breathing Buddy” exercise, get a small weighted stuffed animal or a smooth rock for a child or teen. Then, everyone lies down, places a breathing buddy on their belly, and tries to make it rise and fall with every inhalation and exhalation. It’s helpful to encourage everyone to slow their breathing by counting to three on the inhale and back down to one on the exhale. This is a tool your children can use to calm themselves in stressful moments, such as when they are feeling anxious before a test or after a tension-filled spat with a friend.