Understanding the theory
We all are aware that ones parenting is crucial for ones mental health development.
Psychoanalysts say that the development of a child between ages 0-3 or 0-5 is crucial for the child's overall mental health later in life. It is found time and time again that arrests in development at this age lead to various personality disorders, such as narcissism, antisocial, avoidant, dependent, and borderline personality disorder.
Here are 5 ways in which we can practice mindful parenting to help foster our children's mental health as they grow up and navigate the world around them.
1. Active Listening
Listen compassionately to what your child tells you. It may take them a while to express their thoughts and it may not even be coherent but having patience, giving them the space to express their minds is powerful and strengthens the dynamic between parent and child.
When the child speaks their mind, as parents we should ask them questions, show them we care about what they have to say, we want to understand, and we value their expression. So much of our life experience cannot be expressed through language, instead unspoken dynamics
We all have heard "it's not what you said, but the way you said it", this concept holds true for the listener as well, the way you listen to your child ingrains unspoken values in them, the way someone listens to us determines how close we feel to them and how we feel about what we're saying.
It is important that a child feels heard and understood. As a parents we naturally want to provide this climate for our children. This climate of love and positivity. Empathy is when we are able to connect with our child's experience and provide an intimate level of support. It is less about prescribing advice and finite solutions but validating our child's feelings and experience.
Of course guidance is important, however, it should be interpreted with an empathetic touch. When our child experiences emotions of sadness, anger, fear, happiness, let us validate their feelings. Let us show them yes I understand why you're feeling sad, angry, scared, happy. Ask them why they feel that why and affirm their feelings as real, because they are. Regardless of what prompted them to experience the emotion. Start with closeness and build out from that, help them to understand their feelings and not quick fixes to escape from feeling.
Showing keen and genuine regard for our child’s interests can help them pursue things with passion, resilience, and integrity. These values follow the child into adulthood. They are impacted by the positive affirmations from youth to build strong healthy relationships with others and step boldly in the direction of their dreams.
Children are in touch with an innocence and a deep flow, and they internalize rejection in deep ways. We have to encourage not reject and allow them the agency to explore their interests. We have to separate our judgments and crystallized values from our child's natural curiosity of life. Encourage and empower our children to help them flourish.
Children are taught gratitude at an early age. We politely remind our children to say please and thank you and treat others around them with respect. These are highly transformative moral standards being ingrained in the child through instruction and not always by example.
It is nice when the world sees you reminding your child to say please and thank you and show gratitude towards those around them. However, from the child's perspective, these lessons become much more powerful when they observe their own parents behaving in the same manner.
Parents should express gratitude towards their child consistently, telling them you love them, that you loved the drawing they did, the castle they built, the way they packed up their toys after playing, their offer to help you cook dinner. This helps to develop the child's self esteem and sense of value and worth. They see the gratitude their parents express on a daily basis and it encourages them to pursue acts of kindness and respect for others.
5. Cherish Moments
Routine becomes a huge aspect of raising a child and can present stress at times. The burden of getting everything done may overwhelm us and create short fuses. We love our children and don't mean to lash out at small things they do, but it happens. This often disconnects us from the value we can find in everyday mundane tasks we do with and for our children. Making breakfast, getting them dressed for school, driving them to practice, it is a tremendous weight to carry constantly.
Most of the times we are on auto pilot, however we can carry out these tasks with moments of awakening and awareness. Cherishing these moments with our children helps alleviate the stress of care taking. Asking them what they are looking forward to at school as we dress them, let them tell you a story as you prepare breakfast, letting the child's conversation and inquiring mind inspire you as you care for them.