Mindful Parenting

I once heard a story about a woman who always cut the end of a pot roast off before putting it in the oven to cook.  One day her daughter asked her why she did that and after thinking a moment replied “I don’t really know – my mother always did that – so I do it now”.  But now the woman was curious and so decided to call her mother to find out why she had always cut the end of the pot roast off before cooking it.  “Well dear”, her mother replied, “the pan was always too short for the size of pot roasts that your father brought home and so I had to always cut the end off so it fit in the pan”.

This story shows how some things just get handed down from generation to generation and can become assumptions about the way things are done without anyone ever really thinking about or questioning it.  This is often the case when we are parenting our children.  Even though we may vow to ourselves that we will never do or say what our parents did, how often do we find ourselves horrified when we do or say something that we immediately recognize as something handed down from our parents.

Even worse, sometimes  issues from our past come into the present without us being aware of what we are doing or why.  I have had clients who have said to me, “ Parenting just seems to bring out the worst in me” or  “ I just don’t know why my kids can push my buttons so effectively”.   When we find ourselves reacting way out of proportion to an issue with our kids, it usually is because we have either left over issues from our past or even more serious unresolved issues or traumas.  When we are under stress (and who isn’t these days) or we are feeling overwhelmed, we move into automatic pilot and begin reacting just as we did as children or just how our parents did.  Instead of responding on the basis of present realities, we are back in the past, and it becomes difficult to be present with our kids.

Now we are no longer making thoughtful mindful decisions about how we want to parent our kids. Instead of being active directors of our own and our children’s lives, we are now merely recorders of how the past continues into the present and shapes our family’s future.

How we are each day as parents is important because research continues to show that how we treat our children on a day to day basis and how we interact with them significantly changes and shapes who they are and how they will develop.  This does not occur just on a psychological or mental level but also on a biological level as parents actively sculpt and create their child’s growing brain structures.

We all want to be the best parents we know how to be, and yet, the power of the unconscious mind to influence us can often be more powerful than our best conscious intentions.  So how do we take back our ability to choose our own direction and be the kind of parents that we consciously want to be?

The answer starts with mindfulness. By learning how to pay attention to our internal experiences and becoming an observer of our own reactions and responses, we can begin to evaluate which of these consistently interfere with the loving relationship that we all would like to have with our children.  We might be able to connect things that are happening now to old issues from the past.  We can also work on resolving these old issues , whether they are small “leftovers” from childhood experience that we have never noticed or questioned or whether they are more significant  traumas that need to be worked through, integrated and healed.

Therapy can increase the effectiveness and depth of all of this personal work.  Your therapist can help you become more aware and mindful of both your present experience and how it might connect to your past.  A supportive and compassionate therapist can deepen your insights and also provide you with tools and skills to help you heal and grow.

One of many benefits of doing this kind of therapeutic work is that when we can make better sense of our past and have healed our wounds, the result is that we are better, more mindful parents.  When our uncomfortable or painful memories of the past feel more resolved, we are in a position to support the healthy development of our children and provide them with more choices for the future.  We don’t have to live by the old scripts; we have the power within us to create new more empowering stories for ourselves and for our future generations.

Speak Your Mind


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