This page is a work in progress, however I wanted to share some initial signposts.
My clinical training has taught me the importance of being led by scientific evidence when considering the rationale for any action, and the same is true for learning mindfulness. There’s recent psychology research which shows that if mothers try to suppress their stress, they pass on the stress more to their child (see link below).
Interestingly, the study did not find dads suppressing their stress added anxiety to children, and the writer in the article discusses the possibility that this may be because children are more socialised often to men suppressing their emotions than women, and so more discomfited. Defusing from gender stereotypes for a moment though, logically if your child is used to you being genuine and open with them, they will find it odd and uncomfortable, and therefore worrying, if suddenly they pick up on you holding back emotionally (even if you know you are doing it to protect them).
As a parent, there will be plenty times you might feel stressed, upset, sad, frustrated or angry. Mindfulness is a great tool for helping you notice quickly how you are feeling, and also for giving you a breathing space in which to choose more often in the moment how you respond. I’ve found mindfulness practice has made me generally more open to and accepting of my own feelings, however uncomfortable, and I’m grateful for the chance to choose whether to act out how I’m feeling rather than respond on autopilot.
Taking the research article referenced above into play, before I learned mindfulness I suspect I would have more often fallen into the trap of suppressing my feelings and putting on a brave face for my children. As a Clinical Psychologist interested in ACT however, I tend to choose to share more of how I feel with them. I can also choose to share developmentally appropriately and calmly. For example, I’ve shared with my three year old that I can be a bit grumpy when I’m hungry or in need of coffee. I’ve found she’s started to prompt me to put the kettle on when I notice I’m feeling cranky as a result. It’s also meant she’s linked that she also feels grumpy when she’s hungry, leading her to ask for a snack rather than have a tantrum – so we both benefit.
Louise Shepherd has written some great articles on mindfulness and emotional well-being for mothers. She is a Clinical Psychologist based in Sydney with a specialist interest and experience in using ACT as well as being a mum herself.