Mindfulness and meditation have proven beneficial for both parents and children. More and more studies are uncovering the short- and long-term benefits of incorporating mindful parenting practices into families’ lives (1).
Meditation and mindfulness are not mere techniques. They are states of being that bring less suffering, more presence, and peace into one’s life. Once a person has experienced the benefits of these practices and the ways in which they permeate our daily life and being, there is no going back. Mindfulness and meditation practices have a positive impact not only on the practitioner but also the people that surround this individual, including our children.
A Google search offers this simple definition of mindfulness: “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Renowned meditation teacher John Kabat-Zinn also emphasizes the importance of noticing “nonjudgmentally” (2) because suffering is caused by the judgments we place on our perceptions.
Individuals who have chosen to apply these practices to their parenting have seen improvements in their own lives and the lives of their children. If you are not convinced of the value of these practices and wonder if they are just a fad, here are 40 benefits meditation and mindfulness can provide for parents and children.
For parents, meditation and mindfulness practices offer numerous benefits:
- Develops more patience because we do not mix in our problems with those of our child.
- Reduces reactivity because we respond from a calm place instead of from past wounds when children push our buttons.
- Cultivates emotional awareness.
- Allows us to exercise self-regulation.
- Slows down time because we become more fully involved in our child’s life, and so do not miss out on the wonderful and simple moments of their childhood, which goes by too fast.
- Develops gratitude for all the mundane and extraordinary moments with our child.
- Helps us to become in tune with and accepting of our child’s actual needs, thus allowing us to make better choices.
- Promotes secure attachment with our child and a trusting relationship.
- Enables us to be more present, which allows space for us to listen with full attention and be able to validate our children.
- Develops compassionate and non-judgmental awareness in all interactions.
- Facilitates finding pleasure in and appreciating simple things.
- Helps us cope during stressful moments, such as tantrums or emotional outbursts.
- Promotes our ability to model proper emotion management, and this is how children learn best: by imitation.
- Prevents our children from becoming fearful or traumatized by our out of control reactions or screaming.
- Improves parenting interventions (3).
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improves the immune system, which means parents are healthier (4).
- Promotes greater satisfaction with our parenting skills and therefore with our relationships with our children.
- Facilitates incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of our lives (5).
Children can also experience many benefits from meditation and mindfulness practices:
- Develops the area of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and fears.
- Allows for a less reactive state to emerge.
- Promotes feelings of safety and security.
- Improves self-esteem and self-confidence because children feel heard, seen, and validated.
- Develops problem-solving skills by developing self-reflection and self-awareness, instead of being reactive and living on autopilot.
- Develops conscious individuals.
- Improves emotion management.
- Improves resilience.
- Cultivates better self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Children become better skilled at communicating their needs to others.
- Promotes healthy psycho-social development in children. Improved social skills and interactions emerge because children become skilled communicators. Conversely, they become good listeners themselves.
- Creates grateful children able to live in the present moment.
- Fosters compassion and empathy for others; they become less self-centered.
- Diminishes behavioural problems, while improving emotional health and behavioural functioning (6) (7).
- Improves attention, focus, concentration, memory, and learning (4).
- Improves emotional intelligence.
- Reduces reactivity to others’ anger. They do not take it personally.
- Promotes self-reliance by teaching them to accept and tolerate their own emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. In turn, they find comfort within by learning to soothe and calm themselves without depending on external factors.
- Allows children to find happiness from the inside, independent of external circumstances.
- Improves parent-child relationship during adolescence.
- Cultivates more emotionally and socially competent youth(8)(9).
If you are new to mindfulness, start small. Choose moments throughout your day where you can pay attention to the unfolding of each moment. Become the non-judgmental observer of the experiences taken in by your five senses. Moreover, take in the beauty of your life. Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into our family life can only prove beneficial to all those involved.
- Many of the benefits covered in this post are also summarized here: Duncan, L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. & Greenberg, M.T.(2009) A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent-Child Relationships and Prevention Research Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2009 Sep; 12(3): 255-270.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,10, 144-156. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bpg016.
- Dumas, J. E. (2005). Mindfulness-based parent training: Strategies to lessen the grip of automaticity in families with disruptive children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology,34, 779-791. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3404_20.
- Mindfulness Web Site: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. Go to the Greatergood website and pick the Mindfulness topic.
- Coyne, L. W., & Murrell, A. R. (2009). The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
- Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Fisher, B. C., Wahler, R. G., McAleavey, K., et al. (2006). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance, and self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,14(3), 169-177. doi:10.1177/10634266060140030401.
- Singh, N.N, Lancioni, G.E., Winton Winton, A.S.W., Singh, Singh, J., Curtis Curtis, W.J., Wahler Wahler, R.G.,& McAleavey, K.M. (2007) McAleavey, K.M. (2007). Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression and Increases Social Behavior in Children With Developmental Disabilities, 31 (6), 749-771. doi: 10.1177/0145445507300924
- Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry,9, 241-273. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1.
- Katz, L. F., Wilson, B., & Gottman, J. M. (1999). Meta-emotion philosophy and family adjustment: Making an emotional correction. In M. J. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences. The Advances in Family Therapy Research Series (pp. 131-165). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.