We know you’re already an amazing parent, but when raising children, the days are long and your patience can be short. Meditation is a mind and body practice that involves becoming more aware of what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling in your body, and making it a part of your day can improve your quality of life and well-being in some really powerful ways. Meditation isn’t easy to master – though the aim is really the practice anyway – but it’s something that’s very easy to start. It’s minimal investment, big rewards – a gift you give yourself that then resonates outward – on to your children, your partner, and others. If you’ve never considered meditation before, here are a few reasons it might be just the thing to add to your self-care tool kit.
It can make you more compassionate
More compassion for your kiddos will make it that much easier to deal with the inevitable temper tantrum or the bed-wetting or the toy thrown directly into your face. You’ll be able to better put yourself in your little ones’ shoes and consider their feelings and emotions as being legitimate and rational (for them), rather than just the confounding or cuckoo behaviors of a child. You’ll also have more compassion for yourself, which will make it that much easier to forgive yourself if you forget to respond to an email or burn dinner or yell after that toy to the face. You’ll dwell less on mistakes, focus more on moving forward, and feel like you’re actually doing pretty alright. (And, hey, you are.) And if you’re parenting with a partner, this can help your relationship; chances are your partner is about as stressed as you are, and could use some compassion too.
It can make you more self-aware
Meditation can also help you notice things about yourself like, patterns of thought or behavior that you hadn’t considered before. Which patterns are good for you and your family? And are there any you might want to change? When you do yell, do you feel bad and move on? Or do you stop and apologize to your little one and model the sort of behavior you’d like them to exhibit when they lost their temper? Do you keep forgetting your lunch at home because your morning routine is a bit crazy, but perhaps putting your work bag by the fridge might help you remember it? There’s a lot that we can notice when we slow down a bit, and you may even find you can then make changes or adjustments that can make your life positive in still other ways.
It can make you calmer and more resilient to stress
For parents who are stressed, irritable, anxious, depressed, or tend to ruminate or overthink things, this can be huge. And for individuals with anxiety who may often feel amped up and have a tendency toward physical tension, it can help their nervous system calm the heck down. Overall, meditation can help you be a calmer you, which is no small feat.
It can help you be more creative
Meditation can help parents feel less set in their ways. While boundaries are important for kids, they’ll often try and push back and ask their parents to be flexible, and depending on what they’re pushing back on, parents can often find ways to work with their kids. For example, if your child insists on helping with dinner and you normally might refuse because they’re too little and meal prep is too dangerous, having the headspace to think a little more creatively might allow you to find safe and fun ways they can be involved.
It can make you better at problem-solving and decision-making
Sometimes there’s so much happening that it’s easy to feel the need to make decisions just to get through the day and make it to bedtime, but often all it takes is a bit of extra quiet and focus to help us feel we’re operating with a bit more gas in the tank. This can help us make decisions that are more rational, less desperate, more considered, and coming from a place of calm.
It can make you more patient
When there’s a lot on our plate, sometimes it takes just one thing to set us off. As parents, of course it’s plenty easy to be on edge when we’re juggling all our responsibilities and to-dos and, oh yeah, a kid on our hip. No one wants to react to their child with anger, but it happens to the best of us – and sometimes it comes from a place of feeling not totally in control. Meditation can help you feel less irritable, or more in control and less reactive when you are irritable – because, for example, you may recognize that you’re feeling irritated before you lash out – which in turn can help you feel like you’re better equipped to operate from a place of calm and engage with your kiddos with patience and, as mentioned above, compassion. Every parent needs a great reserve of patience, and if your headspace feels a bit quieter, you can be that much more successful extending that patience to your little ones when needed. Again, this patience totally applies toward partnerships too.
It can make you happier
What makes you happy? Like, really happy? Meditation can allow a lot of the noise in our lives to fall away – if not literally (maybe the baby is still crying), at least metaphorically (but maybe that crying doesn’t make us feel like a failure as a parent and send us into a shame spiral). The missed deadline and that time we yelled when we shouldn’t have aren’t great, sure, but they also aren’t the end of the world. So that sort of stuff can take up a little less headspace, allowing us to focus more on our own wants and needs – and on just how happy we are to witness our little one laugh, or tell their first joke, or help us make dinner.
It can help you be at peace with what’s uncertain
There’s so much you can’t control as a parent – from your little one throwing up on your work clothes just as you’re about to catch a train to not being able to be with your kiddo when they head into the classroom for the first time – and meditation can help you feel more at peace with things out of your control or things you just can’t know.
It can help you sleep better
Yes, really. What parent doesn’t want and need more sleep in their life? Meditation can help bring about what’s called the relaxation response – the opposite of the stress response, or the “fight or flight” response – and once your body is in the habit of relaxing in this way, much like a reflex, it becomes that much easier to relax at bedtime and ease into dreamland. Then comes the better sleep – both improved sleep quality, ease staying asleep, and sleeping longer (if your kids will let you). And the better you sleep at night, the better you’ll feel during the day.
It’s good for your kids too
Imagine that all of that great stuff mentioned above is happening for you – can’t you also imagine that you’ll now potentially be engaging with your children in a different fashion? Our kids pick up on all the ways we engage with them, and as the little sponges that they are, we are often the very best models of behaviors for them. So if we’re engaging in ways that are more patient, more compassionate, and more self-aware, our children may very well engage in some of those same ways. And studies show that parents who are more mindful have less stressed kids. So if they find you in a quiet corner of your home with eyes closed and focusing on your deep breaths, someday soon they might even join you. And, hey, meditation is great for children in many of these same ways too – so model away!
- Mindfulness to mantra: different kinds of meditation
- Big on love, short on time: How to find time for meditation as a busy parent
- Alice Boyes.“5 Meditation Tips for Beginners.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, March 18 2013. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201303/5-meditation-tips-beginners.
- Julie Corliss. “Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard University, December 22 2015. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726.
- Jennifer Kogan. “Mindful Meditation Practices For Parents? Research shows Increase in Resiliency, Wellbeing for those who practice.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, July 17 2012. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/parents-can-meditate-too/2012/07/16/gJQAZcQCpW_blog.html.
- Sue McGreevey. “Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks.” Massachusetts General Hospital. Massachusetts General Hospital, January 21 2011. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.massgeneral.org/News/pressrelease.aspx?id=1329.
- Lea Waters. “The Relationship between Child Stress, Child Mindfulness and Parent Mindfulness.” Psychology. 7(1): 40-51. January 2016. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=62741
- “Meditation: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, January 02 2019. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm.
- “Raising Kids and Running a Household: How Working Parents Share the Load.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, November 4 2015. Retrieved February 5 2019. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/11/04/raising-kids-and-running-a-household-how-working-parents-share-the-load/.