Self Care - why it's the first step to Mindful Parenting
Over the last couple of weeks I have started a number of new Mindful Parenting Courses and the topic that I always begin with is Self-Care. It's a topic which conjures up lots of questions -Isn't looking after myself being selfish? Shouldn't I always put my kids first? I don't have time for self-care, I'm too busy working, looking after my kids, husband, dog, being a taxi service etc etc
So what do we mean by self-care and why is it so important?
Self-care means taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others - it's vital in any job role which involves giving emotionally to other people, after all if we are so full up with other people's emotion what happens if it overflows or we have nothing left to give? Choosing to parent our children in a more mindful, calm way means that we are choosing to be aware of and regulate our own emotions so that we can help them learn how to regulate theirs.
Children brains continue to develop until they are in their early 20s and during this time they are learning a huge number of skills - one of these being to name and manage their own emotions, how they do this largely depends on how they see us, their parents, manage our emotions.
The 3 main characteristics of a Mindful Parent are: an ability to regulate our own emotions, prioritise staying connected to our children (even when their behaviour is challenging) and using coaching skills to teach children rather than controlling methods to manage them. Self-care is a vital component in this as without it I certainly would not have been able to learn or practise these characteristics in order to role model them to my children.
What are the things we can do that result in self-care?
Practising mindfulness is one way of introducing self-care into your life, this can be as simple as carrying out daily tasks in a more conscious way - such as drinking a cup of coffee and focusing on how this feels, what it tastes like and allowing our mind to be in a non-judgemental place. Reducing the amount of multi-tasking also reduces our stress levels, there is a very simple zen saying - "When you drink, just drink, when you walk, just walk" and we can use this for anything - driving, eating, cleaning, breathing.
Here are some examples of how to use these everyday activities to incoporate mindful self-care easily and naturally into your daily life.
Parents often tell me what a huge difference it makes to lives when they feel more relaxed, able to manage their own emotions and how this helps them to make the parenting choices they want to make when their children are testing boundaries and learning how to deal with their own emotions.