You are ready for summer! You may have booked lots of fun outings, camps and swimming lessons or decided to leave the calendar wide open so you can be spontaneous and take advantage of the beaches, parks and wading pools.
Not one precious sunny day will be squandered. You are ready to make this the best summer ever for your kids.
And then summer hits, and you find yourself rushing to get bags packed with sunscreen, sunglasses, bathing suits and snacks. Your little one is throwing his food on the floor, nobody is listening or cooperating, and, of course, you’re running late. In these moments, you might snap, raise your voice, lose it, or break down.
It’s enough to make any parent feel anxious and overwhelmed, and even question whether they are the worst parent ever.
Parenting is hard work, but by practicing mindfulness we can stay grounded, present and intentional about how we raise our children. Mindfulness allows us to connect back to ourselves so that we don’t become reactive or combative.
Here are just a few simple mindfulness practices that you can employ this summer (or anytime, really) to help you feel more energized, patient and in control of your emotions.
We breathe all day long. But incorporating practices like square breathing will help to calm and balance your entire nervous system. To use square breathing, you imagine a box in your mind.
Start by taking in a deep breath for four seconds, visualizing going up one side of the box. Hold it for four seconds, then imagine going across the top of the box as you exhale for four seconds. You then hold for four seconds and inhale for four seconds as you go down the other side of the box. Hold for four seconds and exhale out for four seconds as you move across the bottom of the box.
Repeat as many times as needed, but be sure as you inhale that your belly is expanding, and when exhaling that the belly is constricting. As you get better at this practice, you can inhale and exhale for longer periods, as long as they are in equal proportions.
Science has identified gratitude as a conduit for happiness and health. Research has linked it with feeling more joy, optimism and pleasure.
Practicing gratitude in moments of stress can be as simple as stopping for a moment, maybe stepping out of the room, and identifying all the things you are grateful for.
It is as simple as acknowledging the mindset you are in and shifting your lens. You can move from thinking, "I cannot do this. My kids are out of control. I am to blame for their crazy behavior. How do I get out of this mess?" to identifying five things for which you are grateful. “I am so lucky that I have children who are healthy and that I have this afternoon to spend with them swimming. I have the means to make the choice to stay home part-time, and it is a beautiful sunny day.”
You don’t have to pursue mediation on your own. You can find guided meditations online and via apps. You don’t need to do anything but listen, and you can do it anywhere and anytime. (I often do this first thing in the morning or in the car while I’m waiting to pick up my kids.) It’s a great tool for dealing with the stress at any time, but even better, it can help set you up for the day so you are calmer and more grounded with a greater sense of inner peace.
Parents and kids alike tend to have unreasonably idyllic ideas about the long, endlessly blissful summer vacation. When reality hits, these mindfulness tools can help you cope with the speed bumps a little more gracefully.