By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindful Parenting is a contemplative practice through which our connection to our child, and awareness of our child’s presence, helps us become better grounded in the present moment.” – Scott Rogers
Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with a vast array of medical and psychological problems. But, it is also helpful for dealing with everyday life, from work to relationships, to social interactions, to parenting. Raising children, parenting, is very rewarding. But, it can also be challenging. Children test parents frequently. They test the boundaries of their freedom and the depth of parental love. They demand attention and seem to especially when parental attention is needed elsewhere. They don’t always conform to parental dictates or aspirations for their behavior. They are often affected more by peers, for good or evil, than by parents. It is the parents challenge to control themselves, not overreact, and act appropriately in the face of strong emotions. Meeting these challenges becomes more and more important as the youth approaches adolescence, as that is the time of the greatest struggle for independence and the potential for damaging behaviors, particularly, alcohol, drugs, and sexual behavior.
The challenges of parenting require that the parent be able to deal with stress, to regulate their own emotions, and to be sensitive and attentive to their child. These skills are exactly those that are developed in mindfulness training. It improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It improves emotion regulation. And it improves the ability to maintain attention and focus in the face of high levels of distraction. This becomes particularly important with children with physical problems. Mindful parenting involves having emotional awareness of themselves but also having emotional awareness of and compassion for the child and having the skills to pay full attention to the child in the present moment, to accept parenting non-judgmentally and be emotionally non-reactive to the child. These skills have been shown to help children with psychological problems. But, it is not known if mindful parenting might also help the child better adapt and cope with physical challenges.
Type I Diabetes presents a myriad of challenges for any patient and especially for adolescents. Treatment requires rigorous adherence to a demanding schedule, including scheduled injections of insulin, eating programmed amounts at scheduled times, and monitoring activity levels; all with the goal of maintaining control over blood glucose levels. This is difficult for adults but with the emotional turmoil and social demands of adolescence it becomes particularly challenging and can impact on their quality of life.
In today’s Research News article “The Association of Mindful Parenting with Glycemic Control and Quality of Life in Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes: Results from Diabetes MILES—The Netherlands.” See:
or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Serkel-Schrama and colleagues recruited a large sample of adolescents having Type I diabetes and their parents. The parents were asked to report on their child’s HbA1c levels as a measure of glycemic control and the number of severe events related to glycemic control including hospitalizations, and to complete and mindful parenting scale which included subscales measuring full attention, compassion for the child, non-judgmental acceptance of parental functioning, emotional non-reactivity in parenting, emotional awareness of the child, emotional awareness of self. The adolescents completed self-report scales measuring overall quality of life and diabetes specific quality of life.
They found that adolescents who had higher levels of overall and diabetes specific quality of life were significantly more likely to have parents who were high in mindful parenting skills. Boys who had parents high in mindful parenting skills had significantly better glycemic control (HbA1c levels) while girls who had parents high in mindful parenting skills had significantly fewer hospitalizations for ketoacidosis. Hence, mindful parenting skills were associated with higher quality of life for the adolescents with Type I diabetes, better glycemic control in adolescent boys and fewer ketoacidosis events for girls. Hence, mindful parenting was associated with the adolescents being better able to cope with their disease.
These results are impressive. Most studies of mindfulness skills report on the effects of mindfulness on the individual themselves. The present study was unusual in that the effects of mindful parenting on the adolescent were reported. Adolescents notoriously are rebellious of parental authority, so the improved ability to cope with diabetes in the youths associated with having parents with mindful parenting skills is particularly impressive. It would appear that mindful parenting has far reaching effects on the children including their ability to deal with physical problems in adolescents.
So, produce better diabetes management in adolescents with mindful parenting.
“And the good news is that the work may seem invisible, but the results will blow you away. With practice, you’ll find yourself calmer all the time. Your child will be more cooperative, just because you’re different. And when you’re in a more peaceful state, you’ll find that some of the challenges with your child simply melt away.” – Aha! Parenting
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Serkel-Schrama, I. J. P., de Vries, J., Nieuwesteeg, A. M., Pouwer, F., Nyklíček, I., Speight, J., … Hartman, E. E. (2016). The Association of Mindful Parenting with Glycemic Control and Quality of Life in Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes: Results from Diabetes MILES—The Netherlands. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1227–1237. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0565-1
The objective of this study was to examine associations between the mindful parenting style of parents of adolescents (aged 12–18) with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), and the glycaemic control and quality of life (QoL) of the adolescents. Chronic health conditions, such as T1DM, that require demanding treatment regimens, can negatively impact adolescents’ quality of life. Therefore, it is important to determine whether mindful parenting may have a positive impact in these adolescents. Age, sex and duration of T1DM were examined as potential moderators. Parents (N = 215) reported on their own mindful parenting style (IM-P-NL) and the adolescents’ glycaemic control. Parents and the adolescents with T1DM (N = 129) both reported on adolescents’ generic and diabetes-specific QoL (PedsQL™). The results showed that a more mindful parenting style was associated with more optimal hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) values for boys. For girls, a more mindful parenting style was associated with not having been hospitalized for ketoacidosis. For both boys and girls, a more mindful parenting style was associated with better generic and diabetes-specific proxy-reported QoL. In conclusion, mindful parenting style may be a factor in helping adolescents manage their T1DM. Mindful parenting intervention studies for parents of adolescents with T1DM are needed to examine the effects on adolescents’ glycaemic control and their quality of life.