As a mindful parent, there are many things that you want to give your teen.
You want to give them safety and security, food and shelter, a good education, a good start in life. You want to give them everything that they need and at least some of the things that they want.
And you do a lot of work to make that happen. Your days can become a sort of harried routine of work, household chores, and shuttling your teenagers to and from school and other activities.
Unfortunately, what gets lost in this routine is the chance to actually be with your kids – not just in the sense of being physically present, but in the sense of being entirely there for and with them and mindful of the moment.
And that presence is something that teens want from their parents above many of the other things that parents work so hard to provide.
Take a look at some tips for how you can be an even more mindful parent.
1. Disconnect From Technology and Devices
If you’re like most parents, you have rules for your teen when it comes to computer, cell phone, and video game use.
You don’t want them spending so much time on their screens or on the internet that they miss everything else that the world has to offer. And that’s a good start, but it’s also important to take stock of how you apply those rules to yourself.
Be aware of how often your time with your teen is interrupted by a phone call or an email notification. Your work and your other obligations are important but don’t allow them to be all-consuming.
Set aside some time each day to disconnect from your devices and technology, and aim to spend some time with your teen when none of you have any outside distractions.
2. Avoid Judgement
Making judgments and generalizations is a normal human response. But prejudging how your teen will react or behave in a given situation can cause you to over-correct for the response you expect, instead of actually processing the response that your teen gives.
This can actually cause the response that you’re trying to avoid.
For example, if you assume that your teen will respond disrespectfully when you ask them to do the dishes, you may – however unintentionally – be giving your teen signals that you expect that behavior and prompting them to do exactly what you were expecting, rather than how they might have responded if you’d approached the situation without judging them first.
3. See Things As Your Child Sees Them
Your adult mind and your adult experiences make it easy to forget the way you saw the world when you were two, ten, or sixteen.
Your teen’s actions and thoughts may seem like they’re coming from a totally alien place from your perspective. Your teenagers have never been adults, though. They don’t have the maturity or life experience to see things from your perspective.
You have been a child and a teenager, though, so you have the necessary tools to put yourself in your teen’s shoes and try to see things through their eyes. Practice looking at the world the way that your teen sees it.
That may mean that when your toddler runs up to you with a colorful bug in their hand that they found in the backyard, you will try to access their joy and wonder at the new discovery, rather than shuddering at the thought of a bug in the house. Or that may mean understanding your teen’s excitement at being asked out on a date rather than your concern over the messy bedroom that they need to clean.
You don’t need to say yes to everything your teen asks for or excuse things they do that they know they shouldn’t do, but you do need to understand where they’re coming from and meet them where they are, not where you want them to be or think they should be.
4. Interrupt the Routine Sometimes
Every parent has heard how important it is for teenagers to have consistency and routine schedules in their lives. And it’s true – consistency helps to promote a sense of security and teens thrive when they know what to expect from their daily routine.
But it’s also OK to interrupt the routine sometimes. That could be something as little as going out for breakfast on Saturday morning instead of making the meal at home or as big as taking an unplanned day off from school and work to go on your own adventure.
An occasional break from the routine helps encourage teens to think outside the box and follow their own instincts in life, even if it means doing something different from what they’ve always done. It’s also a great way to create lasting memories.
Your teen will remember the day that you took them out of school to go on a fishing trip or stayed home from work to play board games with them when they were sick long after they’ve forgotten the things that would have been routine on those days.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Being mindful of your teen is important, but being mindful of yourself matters just as much. When you’re run down, exhausted, discouraged, or sick, you can’t be present with your children the way that you want to because you’ve already overextended yourself.
Make sure that you’re taking the time and effort to take good care of yourself.
Eat well, exercise, get good sleep, and schedule some time to be alone with yourself doing something that you find stimulating or relaxing. Maintain relationships outside of your family and work.
You’ll be a better parent if you’re well balanced in other areas as well, and you’ll also be setting a good example for your own teen. They watch what you do, and if they see that you’re taking the time to take care of yourself, they’ll know that it’s OK for them to take care of their own needs too.
Mindfulness doesn’t always come naturally.
You need time to learn and regular practice as well, and you may not always manage to be a mindful parent even when you want to. Make space for mistakes and setbacks, forgive yourself when you get caught up in the daily grind and forget to be mindful, and try again.
You don’t have to achieve perfection in order to be a mindful parent.