Mindfulness for busy mums and dads

Connecting with people you're in relationships with, whether that be your children, or your partner, is an important ...
Connecting with people you're in relationships with, whether that be your children, or your partner, is an important part of mindfulness. Photo: Sam Edwards

 You've finished a busy day at work, where seven different projects have been discussed and countless issues have been addressed. You're on your way to pick up child number one from netball training and you're already wondering what's for dinner. Then you sit in the car with said child, as she knocks over some homework in the back seat and you answer more emails on your phone, waiting for child number two who eventually finishes soccer training an hour later. Then you get a phone call from child number three, who, thankfully, is old enough to catch the bus home alone, to tell you that the washing machine has leaked water all over the floor. Then your husband rings and says he's been caught up at work and won't be home til close to midnight.

It's okay. Be in the moment. Yeh, right. It's easy to be sceptical about the whole idea of "mindfulness for parents". How can you be in the moment when you don't even know what the moment is? Where every moment blurs into the next? Where the easy default option is to react to situations, to be self critical, to be distracted?

Dr Diana Korevaar, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in women's health, pregnancy and perinatal psychiatric disorders, says, with a little understanding, it can be easy to incorporate mindfulness techniques into our every day lives, techniques which will bring a greater sense of calm and control into our lives as parents.

In her new book Mindfulness for Mums and Dads Dr Korevaar outlines proven strategies for calming down and connecting.

Connection is the key, she says, connecting with people you're in relationships with, whether that be your children, or your partner, and connecting with yourself.

"Parents do it hard these days," she says.

"Parenting has never been more intense, people are connected to work 24/7, connected to each other via social media, connected to the outside world through the internet.

"No wonder we're all so distracted."

She says something as simple as ridding your environment of distractions can lead to more mindful times.

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"Turn off the television, put phones away, focus on the task at hand, are all easy things to do.

"It's a very powerful thing to have a meal at a table where people are actually just listening to each other, where one person at a time is speaking, where there are no distractions.

"We need parents to become attuned to their children and to themselves and this can happen more readily if there are no distractions."

Dr Korevaar agrees that in theory mindfulness might seem a hard practice for parents to adopt.

"I know what it's like when you've got screaming toddlers, or teenagers who are back chatting, or babies who won't sleep," she says. "It's easy to become self critical.

"But we have to remember that when children get into an emotional storm they don't have the capacity to respond like adults do, they're not hard wired to get over difficult emotions quickly. It's our responsibility as adults to stand back from the situation and help them ride the wave of that emotion."

A simple thing to do

Imagine what the home is like when everyone is irritable. Observe expressions. How are you talking? What is going on? Is the television on? Are you barking orders? Are voices raised? Ask yourself what is the intention tonight. Tell yourself to just slow down. Don't bite at every reaction. Think about how to speak to people. Make eye contact with them. Focus on one interaction at a time. Allow things to happen gently. Be gentle and kind to each other and to yourself.

Mindfulness for Mums and Dads. By Dr Diana Korevaar. Murdoch Books. $29.99.