Q&a With Kristen Race on Mindful Parenting
1. Bundoo: Mindful parenting and mindful living are very popular right now. Could you tell us, how do you define mindful parenting?
Answer : Kristen Race: This research field is very young, but incredibly encouraging. Mindfulness is thousands of years of old knowledge that modern science is showing can make you healthier, more efficient, less stressed, and improve your relationships. As a society, we are trying to take in more information and racing around. We’ve reached a point where people are saying, “This doesn’t feel good.” Mindfulness is a way to deal with it.
2. So let’s say a parent is dealing with a tantrum-throwing toddler, how can they use mindfulness?
Answer : I ask parents to start mindful living by looking at their own lives and examining and modifying hidden stressors. Hidden stressors include how much technology you consume, your schedule, and how much sleep you get. These are things we have control over, unlike losing a job or a death in the family, but they cause stress in our brains. When we modify some of these, we can reduce stress, and when parents are stressed, the whole family is stressed. There’s a scientific reason for this. We all have mirror neurons in our brains, so when Mom is stressed, the child is also stressed. I encourage parents to start mindful living with breath awareness. Take five minutes a day to be aware of your breath and do simple breathing exercises. Toddlers will model what their parents are doing, so when parental stress is reduced, their stress is reduced and their behavior improves.
3. Is Mindful Parenting more about the parents than dealing with kids directly?
Answer : Yes. Modeling is in full effect from the time children are babies and it lasts through the teenage years. I tell parents that managing their stress is key. Around age 2 or 3, kids start watching how you manage your stress. That’s a great time to start modeling stress management and mindful living. A great practice to start with is the three-breath hug. You embrace your child and take three deep breaths together. It’s a great way to model breathing and it calms both parents and children down.
4. What’s your opinion on the trend toward pharmacological intervention with younger children? We’re hearing about children now being diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders. Is Mindful Living a possible avenue to reduce prescriptions?
Answer : I think there are times when we confused attention disorders with chronic stress. They look the same. If your child has attention or anger issues, I encourage parents to look for hidden stressors. That said, medications can be helpful, but I also know that formal mindful practice can help reduce symptoms and reduce or eliminate pharmaceutical treatment. But it has to be a formal practice, which means taking time each day to bring awareness to the present moment. It could be meditation or even taking a daily walk. It will help us calm our brains so we can react appropriately during challenging times. Deep breathing is great. Have your child sit and take ten breaths. Start simple and go from there. Mindful listening is another great practice. Sit still and listen for the farthest sound you can hear. It’s great for bringing focused attention.
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