Being the mother of four with a wide age spread (currently ages eight to twenty) is both joyful and challenging. I often feel pulled in two or more directions trying to meet everyone’s needs. Through the push and pull, nothing has illuminated my parenting as much as my mindfulness practice, especially with my teens. The best part of mindful parenting is the increase in your belief that you are a good parent, that you are competent and you can make it through the 18-plus years, the next stage of development, and sometimes the next few minutes. This belief in your ability to master your environment is called self-efficacy. Parenting self-efficacy through mindfulness was the topic of my master’s thesis. Academic research is great, but nothing beats actual experience, or makes you feel like a true grown-up more than actually making it through the teen years with a child. Here are five mindfulness skills that I have learned that can help you keep your cool with your budding young adult.
The best part of mindful parenting is the increase in your belief that you are a good parent, that you are competent and you can make it through the 18-plus years, the next stage of development, and sometimes the next few minutes.
1. Normalize – It’s normal for teenagers to test boundaries, challenge authority, and make mistakes. Keep in mind that their frontal lobes are not yet fully formed. Don’t focus on the mistakes. Instead, just like when they were toddlers, focus on keeping them safe.
2. Non-attachment – Teenagers give us a lot of opportunities to practice non-attachment. Practice mindfulness by picking your battles. Let go of the little things, even the soda cans and empty chip bags all over the family room, focus on what matters.
3. Take the consultant stance – Teens are so annoyed by their parents because they still need us. They hate this fact. It makes them very irritable. But they need our financial support, the lodging we provide, and sometimes comfort and advice when they are feeling down. Take the consultant stance, mindfully stand by for the moment they need you, give them your take on the situation, then calmly step aside.
4. Curiosity - Raising even the best behaved teenagers can be challenging, and at the same time a great support for your mindfulness practice. Watch yourself. Be curious about your responses to your teen’s music, clothes, and choices in friends. Your reactions might be a response to some unfinished business from your own childhood. This might be an opportunity to re-parent yourself.
5. Self-care – Don’t forget to take care of yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to have a gentle exercise routine that includes mindful movement. Keeping up with your mindfulness practice even when you think you don’t have the time will help your stress level stay in a healthy range and help you make better decisions. Check out our mindfulness basics if you’re just getting started.
How has mindfulness helped you on you parenting journey? Let us know.
For more on mindful parenting, read this inspirational story: Surrendering to Parenthood.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!