By Berenice Boxler
Another year is almost gone, and the festive days approach rapidly. Christmas time is around the corner, and with it comes the time of family gatherings and re-connections with relatives, both distant and near. The children are growing impatient and wait for the special feeling near the Christmas tree – or rather for the presents they expect to get.
Sometimes the holidays feel crazy: we spend most of the time buying presents, wrapping them up, preparing food and planning get-togethers. Then we get stressed out by the fact that our little ones don’t really appreciate all this effort. They grow impatient with how slowly the days seem to pass, whereas we feel that time is flying while we try to get everything done.
Feeling as if you were only giving?
Yes, at the end of a tough year, we may feel depleted. Still, we offer our lap when our back hurts. We let our children enter our thoughts even when our minds seem stuffed with grown-up concerns and plans. We offer restraint. We accept a no-nap day. We give the gift of self-control, of not yelling or overreacting, even when it feels like it would be a relief. We let our children “have” us when in fact we feel really empty. Very often it feels like we are giving more than we can. And there seems to be no “reward” or gratitude in return. But parenting is not an exchange, there is nothing to expect.
However, being a parent is not only about giving, let alone giving up our own self and needs.
Mindful Parenting has at its core a gift to yourself: the gift of self-care. We have to get enough sleep, enjoy healthy and nutritious food, try to exercise and give our mind and body little resting spaces throughout the day. And sometimes we have to give a kind NO as in: “No, sweetie, not now. I will play with you when I have finished my tea.” This NO to our kids is then a YES to yourself. We have to be mindful of our own well-being, because we simply cannot give on running empty.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed in this period and to become distracted from the real gifts that are at the heart of parenting. Mindfulness gives us the choice to stop in our rush, to take a break, to breathe and to relax our body and mind. Then we can see that the holiday season is not about presents and fulfilling material wishes, not about the perfect Christmas dinner or the fear that our children might not behave when the in-laws are around.
Being a parent, holding this deep bonding to your little (or at least young) one/ones dear is about relationship and connection, about really listening and seeing the other’s perspective. Giving our children our full attention is the most wonderful gift we can grant them. We can offer a hug, a smile, a touch, comfort, a sandwich, a story read, a bed tucked in, a goodnight kiss, an open heart.
And we can also receive – we can take in the moments of pure joy in the children’s eyes, we can hear their stories of snow and Christmas, and we can feel the connection. In fact, our children give us very much indeed. They give us their mysterious little self and remind us daily that we should let go of too much planning and take every day, every moment as it is. They give us their love and trust and their joy of being in this world.
Tools for mindful parenting (or for any kind of social interaction):
Here are some mindfulness tools you could try in the coming days:
- Make sure you are not running on empty.
Allow yourself to take care of your body and mind. Get breaks and breathing spaces. Meditate. Have a bath. Have a mindful cup of tea and a cookie.
- Be mindful of your tone of voice.
Talk to your children with the same respect that you expect from them. Know that if you talk with anger in your voice, the message will not be heard.
- Set limits before things get out of control.
Remember that children will act like children. Their upper brain (emotion regulation, rational thinking) is not yet fully developed. They simply don’t have full power over their emotions and thoughts. (As if we did…)
- Notice what triggers you.
If you get triggered, model emotion regulation. Remember “STOP”: Stop – Take a Breath – Observe what is going on – Proceed in a skillful way.
Play, listen, put any technology away when you are interacting with your child, stay curious.