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How to be A Mindful Parent

15 January, 2014

Today’s How To Be A Mindful Parent contribution could not have come at a better time! Mindful parenting is difficult at the best of times but moving to a new country and trying to figure out what we’re doing seems to have made this even harder. The wonderful Lisa Hassan Scott’s How To Be a Mindful Parent made me stop and reflect on what I need to do to become more present in these hectic moments.How to Be a Mindful Parent - 3 lifechanging yet simple practices

There are some days when it feels as though the world is against me. Today we’re ten minutes late for the dentist. We’re trying to leave the house when one child suddenly announces that he needs to use the loo (not a number one, you understand), the other two are bickering instead of putting their shoes on, the lunch still hasn’t been made for when we get home and I remember that I’ve missed a deadline and there won’t be time tonight to work on anything. My mind is busy, busy, busy and I’m wishing I could escape from this stressful situation.

Mindfulness is the opposite of having a busy mind: it is filling the mind with only one thing at a time. Sounds easy, right? Of course you know from experience that it’s not.

Try sitting down and staring at a candle flame or a pebble or a flower for five minutes or more. For most of us, within the first minute we’re thinking about our shopping list or the ridiculous thing we said yesterday or the work we’ve got to get done tonight. It’s not easy to fill the mind with a single thing.

Mindful parenting involves allowing the mind to focus solely on this present moment with our child(ren). It involves letting go of worries about the future or anxieties about the past. It involves letting go of labels, expectations, and our own personal baggage that can get in the way of a truly authentic experience with your child.

At the heart of Mindful Parenting is Connection
After all, this is the aim of mindful parenting: connection. A mindful parent seeks to establish a meaningful connection between the parent’s authentic self and the child’s authentic self. We let go of what we are expected to be, what we used to be, what we hope to become. We allow our child and ourselves to simply be who we really are.

It’s essential to first let go of thoughts about being ‘good at it’ because it is simply a practice. With mindful parenting we release judgements and criticism; we practice acceptance. We are all learning and growing every day. You wouldn’t expect to sit down and play a Chopin sonata after your first piano lesson, and similarly nobody’s going to be a totally mindful parent all the time. Give yourself a break.

So allow me to offer up some ideas for how our parenting could become more mindful, and as a consequence, more meaningful.

Check in with your thoughts
1. We can become aware of our thoughts. If you do only one thing to engender deeper connection with your child, this is it. Imagine your mind like a television screen, a canvas or a blank wall. Across the surface of the mind thousands of thoughts float each day. Some are fleeting, others draw us in and invite further consideration. When we are in the hothouse conditions of parenting, gentling a crying baby, supporting a toddler in a tantrum, dealing with older children who are arguing—in all of these situations myriad thoughts arise. When we are low, we might think:
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m not cut out for this.”
“Why is this happening to me?”
“I wish I were somewhere else!”
“I hate this.”

And when those thoughts take over and multiply, parenting is invariably harder and we feel more disconnected from ourselves and our children. We might end up behaving in ways that aren’t in keeping with our overall parenting philosophy. Then the critical thoughts arise (“I’m a bad mother”) and these sow the seeds for further disconnection and unhappiness.

When you become aware of your thoughts you find yourself in the driver’s seat. Instead of being at the mercy of your thoughts you are in charge and can choose to divert the mind or interrogate the veracity of those thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Practice checking in with yourself and watching what pops up on the canvas of your mind. You may start to notice patterns. The first step is awareness.

Get Grounded
2. We can ground ourselves. To bring ourselves smack dab into the present moment we can make ourselves completely physically present. Grounding usually has to do with our relationship with the Earth. So you might stand for a moment and sense your feet touching the floor. You might stop and become aware of your physical body and the space that it occupies (more often than not you may also become aware of where you’re holding on to tension—raised shoulders, clenched jaw, etc.).
But my favourite way to ground myself is completely child-centred and harnesses the power of human touch. I just touch my child. The sensation of his skin, the chubby dimples of his knuckles, the flyaway down of his hair—all of these feelings draw me away from unhelpful thoughts and straight toward my child. This is no absent-minded touch. It is a meaningful interaction that makes our connection real on the outside, so that we can connect deeply from the inside.

3. We can breathe. Goodness, it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? From the moment we’re born, til the moment we leave this life we breathe. It’s automatic, totally involuntary. The rhythmic, pulsating, wave-like movement of the breath can become a cornerstone of calm in our lives. Focussing on the ebb and flow of the breath can drown out the unhelpful thoughts that lead us away from connection with our children. Instead of the din of thoughts (“What a mess!” “There’s too much to do!” “I can’t possibly meet everyone’s needs today!” “What a horrible day this is!”), we can let the mind hover over the calm tidal inhalation and exhalation.

When we’re stressed, we usually clench the tummy muscles, shoulders and face. We lock up the breathing mechanism and instead of filling the lungs, the breath only reaches the upper chest and ribs. Allowing the breath to move right down towards the tummy softens those muscles and calms the mind. When parenting is hard and you need connection with your child(ren), try the pursed lips breath: breathe in through the nose and when you exhale lightly purse your lips and gently but smoothly blow the breath out until you have released every little bit of breath. You may be surprised at the length of your exhalation and how quickly your tummy becomes involved. Repeat as many times as you need to calm yourself and let go of tension.How to be a mindful parent

Each of these three ideas is a practice. It’s something we try to do as much as possible during the day, but there are times when we might not feel as though we’re terribly good at being mindful. All of our responsibilities won’t go away, but mindfulness can help to bring a little more peace to pressured moments.

One of the fruits of all of these practices is self-compassion. With time and practice you will become more aware of the way self-critical thoughts beat you down and prevent you from living authentically as a parent. Don’t let them win: persevere. Even better, if you can get to a Yoga class, a one-to-one teacher or a meditation class, then do. In my opinion, it’s the best investment you can make into your parenting.

Trips to the dentist only come round twice a year, but as a parent I face challenging situations every day. There’s no one recipe for being a “good” parent. With mindfulness we let go of those value judgements and we simply aim to be the parent our child needs. No parenting manuals, no how-to’s. Just real, satisfying, meaningful connection.

©Lisa Hassan Scott 2013.

Lisa Hassan Scott is a Yoga teacher, freelance writer, breastfeeding counsellor, home educator and mother of three children ages 4, 8 and 11. She blogs at


Three Free last-minute Valentines gifts

10 February, 2013

I saw a tweet this week from a magazine, something like “Our list of Valentines gifts for under £50″…

I almost spat out my tea and the just-dunked biscuit I was inevitably munching (this womb-baby is a total biscuit fiend.) UNDER FIFTY QUID?! I did chuckle. It was the kind of creative pride in the list; “Behold! We have unearthed some items you can buy to show your love, and they cost, like, less then the weekly shop!”

What a parallel universe I live in. I don’t think I’d spend half-a-hundy on ANYTHING that wasn’t a grocery bill, or an electricity bill, or another kind of necessity. One hundred million percent NEVER EVER on a pressie! Blimey, Tim is lucky if he gets a pair of socks (fresh from his clean laundry pile.) (Jokes.) (Sorta.)

I don’t think I’d ever spend that kind of money on a pressie because I am completely confident that the love felt from a gift has absolutely nothing to do with the amount it costs, but the amount of thought gone in to it.

There is an equation, I read about it in The Book of Very Serious and Scientific Calculations for Life, under the Gift chapter:

Thought x intention = love felt

Settled then.

Of course, it is all very well for the people who are glue-wizards and stitching-queens to say this, but what about people who don’t know their papier-mache from their decoupage? Well, I STILL think there are options. In fact, here are three.

As long as you have access to a bit of paper and a pen, these three gifts are free, can be created quickly in an emergency and will no DOUBT provoke love to bubble up, spring-like, in the recipient’s belly and come gushing forth all over you this Valentines Day.

The first comes from one of my favourite bloggers, Kat from Eco Empire. It is completely genius and involves folding a piece of paper into one of those fortune teller things that were all the rage in the playgrounds across the world in 1995. You fill it with date ideas and get it out once a month. It shows an absolute commitment to special time spent together, and a real care over thinking of the kinds of things you’d like to do together.origami valentines date craft

The second is from a blogger I have just recently found and whose creativity and writing I am really enjoying, Evie S.  On their eighth year anniversary she did a little illustration, summing up their time together in numbers. What a cool way to think about the things you have been through together, and see where your journey has bought you.valentines illustration

Lastly, this is one I did a few years ago for Tim – 52 reasons I love you. Back then I did it on a pack of cards I tied together with ribbon. This year I have scrawled them on 52 hearts I cut out. A reason for every week this year. Some are pretty silly “You make the BEST gosh darn porridge every morning” (He really does.) And others speak more about his nature, the Who that I see more every day even though we have been together for YONKS.

a jar filled with reasons i love you valentines

The very best bit about this simple gift is how much it makes you dwell on all the things you love about them. You think 52 is impossible after you have poured your heart into the first 7, but since finishing it I keep thinking of more. (Sorry, bit yuck, eh.) I put my 52 reasons in a jar, because, you know me, if it can’t go in an old jar? Not interested.

52 reasons valentines craft

So, magazine, take your unthrifty fifties. My Valentine is getting a piece of paper. Cos as Plato said, or was it Ghandi,  or Yoko Ono…  (Hmmm, I’ve got a feeling I’m getting closer…) Money can’t buy me love!

Quick and free valentine gift ideas

Craftiness, Thrifty

Easy Toddler Wings Craft

8 November, 2012

When I was a wee tike I was selected as part of the Royal Ballet Help the Poor South London Kiddies Scheme. It meant being bustled off each week to a cold, scary big hall and leaping from corner to corner and getting told off for not leaping gracefully enough by older ballerinas. I didn’t really like it much (what an ungrateful Beneficiary of Good Will!) and didn’t last very long. But before I had my last tussle with Mum about whether I could give up this opportunity I did get to perform in the Royal Opera House dressed as a giant chicken.

Despite being a rubbish, ungrateful ballerina I can remember being so proud on that stage, and feeling so full of fancy, so unlike my clumsy self, I felt that even my leaping met the grade, as a flapped my way from stage left to stage right.  I think I was probably the last child out of my suit.

There is something about wings, even those wings of the inelegant chicken, that makes a child’s imagination soar.

After seeing some images of a child in wings on the internet a few times, I decided I had to give this craft a crack and discovered just how irresistibly easy it is and what delight they provoke in children!

It was such a simple craft, anyone could manage it with just some scraps of fabric and a sewing machine. It did take a while cutting out all those reams of looping feathers, and it is fairly monotonous sewing the lines – but I am sure you all have a much higher boredom threshold than me!   I used up some upholstery samples, so I had fantastic, bold colours but really just too heavy for tiny arms to happily flap for hours.

How to:

  • You need a base that reflect the arm length of the child. I did 30 cm x 30 cm (for a 1-2 year old, would fit up to 3)  and cut a loose curve between them.
  • I then cut lots of loopy strands, beginning at 36 cm and getting smaller as you sew up into the corner.
  • My strands were  around 5 cm wide, but these could be any width- wider if you are lazier than me and want less strands or much less wide if you would like lots and lots of feathery layers.
  • Best to leave a loop hanging off each end and then cut the loop smaller once you are all done.
  • I just sewed straight along the top of each strand from corner to corner, wriggling and doing tiny tucks as I went to accommodate the curve for the first one or two longer strands. For the short strands you can zip straight along.
  • I then laid them out to make a half circle and so I could easily imagine where the ribbon needed to go.
  • I then attached a long piece ribbon to the pointy corner of each wing, with a few centimetres between them, so that could go around the neck with a nice bow.
  • I left the bottom corner to just hang, and tied a smaller bit of ribbon on the far end corners to tie around the ribbon.
  • Hope that all makes sense!

As you can see, I didn’t use the ideal fabric and my cuts are wonky but it still turned out okay! Such a forgiving craft, my absolute favourite kind.

I made two pairs to send to my two toddler nephews in New Zealand. It is hard finding crafty  present ideas for toddlers and children so I was REALLY happy when my sister-in-law sent a video of her darling boy having a major giggle, flapping about and dancing to Adele. These are now my present of choice for every child!!