Mindfully be a Better Parent
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“As parents, perhaps the most precious thing we can give our children is the gift of our full presence, in the moment. This is the deep intention and invitation for parents as they make space for mindfulness practice in their lives. Mindful parenting takes to heart the deep truth that we can only give to our children what we have given first and fundamentally to ourselves.” – Lisa Kring
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 with adolescents, as here are the greatest struggles for independence and the potential for damaging behaviors, particularly, alcohol, drugs, and sexual behavior.
The challenges of parenting require that the parents be able to deal with stress, to regulate their own emotions, and to be sensitive and attentive to each other and their child. In addition, both parents working cooperatively, coparenting, is needed. These skills are exactly those that are developed in mindfulness training. It improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It improves emotion regulation. It improves relationships, And it improves the ability to maintain attention and focus in the face of high levels of distraction. Mindful parenting and coparenting involve having emotional awareness of themselves and their partner and 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.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Parenting and Coparenting.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Parent and colleagues investigate the relationship between mindfulness and parenting and coparenting in being effective parents. They recruited parents of children in three age ranges; young childhood (3 to 7 years old), middle childhood (8 to 12 years old), and adolescence (13 to 17 years old). They completed measures of mindfulness, mindful parenting (careful listening and attention, low reactivity, non-judgmental responses, emotional awareness, and compassion for the self and the child), mindful coparenting (negotiation of a shared caregiving role between two adults), positive parenting (expressions of warmth and affection, facilitating supportive parent-child communication) and negative parenting (reactive parenting, ineffective discipline), and coparenting relationship quality (increased coparenting agreement, closeness, and support and decreased coparenting conflict and undermining).
They found that high levels of parental mindfulness were significantly associated with high levels of mindful parenting and mindful coparenting and low levels of negative parenting. In turn, high levels of mindful parenting were associated with high levels of positive parenting and low levels of negative parenting. High levels of mindful coparenting were associated with high levels of coparenting relationship quality. There were no differences in these effects between parents young, middle or adolescent children. Hence, being mindful makes for better parents directly and indirectly by affecting mindful parenting and coparenting skills.
It should be kept in mind that this study was correlational and there were no active manipulations. So, causation cannot be concluded. But previous studies that included mindfulness training have demonstrated that improving mindfulness improved parenting. So, it is reasonable to suggest that the relationships are causally connected. Hence, it appears that mindfulness produces better parenting.
So, mindfully be a better parent.
“According to new research, children who experience mindful parenting are less likely to use drugs or get depression or anxiety.” – Jill Suttie
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Parent, J., McKee, L. G., Anton, M., Gonzalez, M., Jones, D. J., & Forehand, R. (2016). Mindfulness in Parenting and Coparenting. Mindfulness, 7(2), 504–513. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-015-0485-5
Mindfulness has been established as a critical psychosocial variable for the well-being of individuals; however, less is understood regarding the role of mindfulness within the family context of parents, coparents, and children. This study tested a model examining the process by which parent dispositional mindfulness relates to parenting and coparenting relationship quality through mindful parenting and coparenting. Participants were 485 parents (59.2% mothers) from three community samples of families with youth across three developmental stages: young childhood (3 – 7 yrs.; n = 164), middle childhood (8 – 12 yrs.; n = 161), and adolescence (13 – 17 yrs.; n = 160). Path analysis using maximum likelihood estimation was employed to test primary hypotheses. The proposed model demonstrated excellent fit. Findings across all three youth development stages indicated both direct effects or parent dispositional mindfulness, as well as indirect effects through mindful parenting and mindful coparenting, with parenting and coparenting relationship quality. Implications for intervention and prevention efforts are discussed.