“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul and consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connection, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world.” Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
As the seasons change from summer to fall in our old neighborhood, we are consciously grateful for the “year-long summer” here in Southeast Asia that keeps the pools open and the parks welcoming. I have had to be even more conscious of my parenting this month, as we work to form and settle into a new routine. As the seasons change, as our circumstances change, as our children change, it helps to be conscious of the changes, how they affect our children and our families and how we can respond to them in a way that strengthens or maintains our family harmony. This month, I’ve tried to be more conscious of the changes by scheduling quality time, making self-care a priority and enjoying the fruits of my efforts as motivation to keep on track.
Scheduling Quality Time
One challenge I have been facing these days, common to most parents of more than one young child, is how to spend quality time with each and to make the most of the time we all share together. While, I know it is not easy, or even possible, for everyone depending on children’s ages and family circumstances, scheduling quality time has been a positive changing in our family. Because my daughter is in preschool in the mornings, I am able to spend a good portion of focused time with my son. Because he is our second child, and a much calmer, easy-going child, much of his first two years was spent riding around in my arms, chasing after his sister. But now, I can focus solely, going on morning adventures or just staying home and playing his favorite games. Through this time, we’re deepening our connection and making more happy memories.
With the morning over and both children home and awake, I had little opportunity for similar quality time with my daughter. Upon seeing how distressed she became when we arrived home and she had to immediately share my attentions with her younger brother, I found child care arrangement that would allow us to come home a little later a few days a week, so she has that special time just with me before arriving home, and it has made a tangible difference in how she greets her brother upon arriving home and in her disposition for the rest of the afternoon. And because I am able to spend the morning with my son, I don’t feel so guilty coming home a little later. If you don’t have the luxury of time, something as simple as turning off the radio in the car or taking a few minutes to play (or sit and talk with older children) when you are reunited may be appreciated. For ideas for scheduling one-on-one time if your time is more limited read Five Ways to Spend More Time with Your Kids When You Have No Time on Lifehack, Simple Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids or for a more structured approach, read AHA! Parenting’s post on scheduling Special Time.
Making Self-Care a Priority
Another challenge this month has been handling the stress of daily life in a healthy manner and not letting it adversely affect my parenting. Stress affects us all, regardless of our life circumstances, family situation or geographic location. If unchecked, it can easily bubble over into our parenting in the form of shorter tempers, less patience and less focused attention. In order to avoid this, I have been working to make my own self-care a priority. Whether it is relaxing over a cup of tea in the evenings after the kids are in bed, making time for regular exercise or taking a few minutes to journal during the day, a small investment in self care brings far greater rewards in the time I spend with my children. In her book, The Life Organizer, A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year (gender specifics aside, this could also work for men), Jennifer Louden talks about the idea of Minimum Daily Requirements. I love this term because, like food, water and shelter, your Minimum Daily Requirements are the minimum necessities to be your best self each day. While massages, vacations and therapy sessions might do wonders for our mental health, minimum daily requirements are more basic habits, integral to daily well-being. For me, exercise, getting outdoors, connecting with family and friends and finding time to reflect each day, keep me balanced. When I start feeling off, upon closer inspection, I usually find I am neglecting my Minimum Daily Requirements.
Enjoying the Fruits of My Efforts
Parenting, especially parenting high needs, spirited or other children with special needs, can be a demanding, often thankless job, with little immediate positive results of your efforts. However, once in a while, a spontaneous display of affection, an introspective question or an un-prodded act of kindness from our children helps us to see that something we are doing is working. I have had a few such moments this month that helped to remind me that it is worth it to take the extra time and effort to be patent, to be kind, to be thoughtful in how I respond to and interact with my children.
After regularly discussing our snuggle tanks (discussed in Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014), my spirited four-year-old has become more conscious of her need for connection. While, she still has strong, emotional outbursts, now, sometimes, instead of being inconsolable or aggressive, she will come and say, “I need a snuggle,” knowing that a sense of disconnection is often the source of her upset and a “snuggle” is a great way to restore her balance. Additionally, after a few months of loving kindness meditation as part of our bedtime routine (Conscious Parenting Inspirations – June 2014), she noticed a family in the rain and decided that she would send them loving kindness because they “only had a small umbrella.” And finally, as we have been connecting more though our morning and evening routines and our scheduled quality time, I have become the recipient of many more spontaneous hugs and kisses.
Thanks for reading!
What about you? Have you had any Conscious Parenting Inspirations this month? If so, I’d love to hear from you!
Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook