Hey! So, on today’s episode of “PTLGuests” The wonderful Laura, from HowToGYST.com has stopped by to talk about that one thing that nobody gets a how-to book on, PARENTING. Us moms get stressed out sometimes and we need some reassurance that we are not the only ones that want to run screaming in the opposite direction of our loving family. And with that, I am going to hand the reigns over to Laura!
Raising children isn’t easy. You’re exhausted a lot of the time, and you lose patience with your little ones when you really don’t mean to. You’re pulled in several different directions, juggling various different responsibilities and, at the end of the day, you don’t have any time left over just for yourself. Luckily, there are some mindful parenting hacks that can help you regain a sense of calm and control, and help you forge a stronger bond with your family.
First, let me reassure you that if you identified with any of the above feelings, you’re not alone. All parents have their struggles. I don’t profess to have all the answers but, in giving up my career four years ago to become a stay-at-home parent, I’ve learned a lot of valuable parenting tips along the way. Here are 10 tips for avoiding arguments, leading a less stressed life, and having more time and energy to dedicate not just to your family but also to yourself.
Top 10 tips for more mindful parenting
1. Plan everything in advance
One of the most sanity-saving things you can do is to pick your child’s clothes and activities a week in advance. Lay all outfits out on Sunday evening for the coming week, and have all activities and playdates scheduled so both you and your children know what’s coming up. It’s not about packing your week with things to do (it’s absolutely fine to have several “play at home” days); rather, it’s about making you feel more prepared, reducing the risk of forgetting something or rushing around last minute, and keeping your kids in the loop as to what’s expected of them each day.
2: Talk everything through
This is something that made bedtime in this house a lot less stressful — telling your children exactly what’s about to happen, step by step. Here’s an example: “OK, you’re going to pick up these toys now and put them away, and then you’re going to go brush your teeth. After that, you’ll get into your pyjamas and we’ll read a story together. Then it’s lights out.” When you explain a series of upcoming events to a child, it leaves less room for argument, uncertainty, or general disobedience. It’s extra effective if you double check your child’s understanding by asking questions like, “And what are you going to do after you brush your teeth?” This way the child is acknowledging not only that they understand what they have to do, but that they heard you in the first place. No more selective deafness!
3: Offer limited choices
Just like us adults, children like to feel in control but can become overwhelmed when faced with too many choices. How many times has your child hummed and hawed over what bedtime story they’d like to read, while you sat there watching the clock? Instead, try offering a limited selection. The less there is on offer, the easier it is to make a decision. This is a particularly useful trick when shopping with children who can become very easily distracted and, in turn, drive you demented. So, for example, when buying fruit, hold up two bananas and ask which one they’d like best. By giving your child a choice, however inconsequential, they’ll be much more engaged in the process and will feel their input is valued.
4: Teach them meditation
This won’t be easy, and will take some persistence, but start with just a few seconds. My 4-year-old daughter now understands that sometimes during the day I like to sit quietly and close my eyes. I’ve explained that it helps me feel calm and happy, especially at times when I might be feeling a little frustrated or frazzled. She’ll sit with me for a few seconds before getting bored, but it’s all about building up the practice. Getting children to take some time out during their day to just sit in silence and stillness can be hugely beneficial for their mental health, and will help them deal with difficult emotions as they grow older.
5: Make room for imagination
I think all of us are burdened with “too much stuff” syndrome these days, and children are no exception. When I removed about 80% of my daughter’s toys (donating a small amount and storing the rest in the attic), I worried that she would get bored. I was very wrong. Nowadays, she spends a lot more time playing quietly by herself, using her imagination to build whole worlds and stories around small items, whereas before, the tale was already told for her in the extravagant, complicated toys. She also knows that if she wants something from the attic, she has to choose something else to go up in its place, making her much more conscious of her relationship to things and which items she truly values.
6: Do chores together
Children aged two and over can help out around the house. Start them off with matching socks and putting soft toys into a basket, and work your way up to emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the floors. Make it part of the daily routine, and try not to use it as a punishment. Your children should feel that it’s as much a part of their normal day as eating meals. It teaches them personal responsibility and how to keep a home clean, and it means slightly less work for you. Win-win!
7: Enforce tidy up time
At the end of every day, your children should be putting away their own toys. Yes, they may need some help, but they should never feel it’s OK to walk away from any mess they’ve made and leave someone else to clear it away. They may be tired and cranky but once it’s part of their routine, they won’t think twice about it. Again, it teaches them valuable life lessons, and takes a lot of the pressure off you. It means that, once they’ve gone to bed, you can put your feet up instead of facing into more work. And that time off is the difference between waking up the next day feeling refreshed and revitalized, or cranky and irritable.
8: Take regular breaks
Make it a point to step away a few times a day, even if it’s just for a minute or two. It can be the difference between feeling calm and composed, and losing your cool. Even if you’re not feeling particularly stressed or frazzled, a few minutes of alone time can make all the difference to your mental health. Often it’s a build up over the course of a day that can see you suddenly snapping, so step away when you can. You’ll obviously have to use your good judgement here depending on how old your child is and what activity they’re engaged in but, if you can, go grab a quick change of scenery by spending an extra minute in the bathroom, telling your children you just need to check something in the other room, or walking away as soon as someone else is there to help out.
9: Get help
Never be afraid of asking a friend to babysit, or telling your partner you need a few extra minutes in bed tomorrow morning. Parenting is about as tough as it gets, and it can really take its toll, so rely on your loved ones to take some of the burden off you. If you can get 4 friends or family members to agree to babysit even just one hour a month each, that means you’ve got an hour off every week to go get your hair done, do some shopping, read a book, eat a meal in peace, or just catch up on sleep! You could even hire someone. Childminding may not be as expensive as you think and, while you may feel that the whole idea of mindful parenting is to spend more time with your children, it’s actually about spending more quality time with them. And if you need an hour off to just sit and think your own thoughts so that you can come back refreshed and be the mother you want to be, then it’s well worth it. You’ll be a better, more focused, calmer parent because you’ll have had the space to clear your head.
10. Embrace “good enough” parenting
Nothing is perfect, and trying to make it so, especially when it comes to parenting, is a fast track to stress central. Not every meal needs to be cooked from scratch, not every toy needs to be educational, and not all screen time is bad. Choose your battles. Your children will grow up to be wonderful human beings, whether or not you let them watch a few cartoons. They’ll remember that you read them a bedtime story every night, not what the content of the story was. So don’t sweat the small stuff.
When you take care of yourself and give yourself some grace, you’ll be much better equipped to look after your children. Kids don’t care that there are a few crumbs on the floor, they care that you’ll get down on the ground anyway and play with them. They’ll love you because you spent time with them, listened to them, instilled morals and a sense of personal responsibility in them, and had hugs and kisses on tap. And the only way to give so much time and attention to someone else is to fill up your own cup first. Carve out as much downtime as you can, choose your battles, and get everyone involved in the day-to-day running of the household. By following the above mindful parenting tips, you’ll form a stronger bond with your family while also building a strong identity for yourself.