Every parent knows how time flies, how our little ones grow up way too quickly. One moment you’re in the newborn baby bubble,
the next you’re waving to your child through the classroom window. But what a privilege to be part of their journey as they shape and develop. My little girl is going to be 6 years old soon (and yes, I keep asking myself “where did that time go?!”), and she sure keeps us on our toes! The last couple of months have been challenging for her, she seems to be feeling the pressure of school and she’s trying to navigate her way through the ups and downs of social learning. The challenge for us? Finding the right balance of supporting her through it all and providing limits when she spills all her frustrations once she comes in the door at home. And staying calm…..
It’s easy to overestimate the joys of being the older sibling. As a big sister she may be expected to behave and know better. When sometimes all she wants to do is to be really little and have “baby needs” met.
It’s easy to overestimate how responsible she is, or wants to be. Sometimes children need to misbehave to discover the limits.
It’s easy to underestimate how much a soon-to-be-six year old still goes through for each phase of growth and development. New perspectives, new insights, new discoveries, it can be overwhelming and scary. It’s easy to underestimate how much children still need us even with each step they take towards independence.
And it’s become so clear to me lately, that my girl needs me now just as much as she always has. I’m the one who has to catch up to where she’s got to, and provide the love and support she needs. In some ways, my little girl needs me more than ever. I know her, and I know how calm, warm, kind and sensible she is. How sensitive she is, experiencing emotions very strongly. So when she misses being at home more, when she comes home from school telling me she’s feeling frustrated, when she has trouble falling asleep, and when I see how she struggles to behave well as a result of all this, I need to find how I can best support her. If I lose my cool too, we’re not getting anywhere. So I want to be more mindful. I want us as a family to learn to be more mindful around each other. And here are the things I wish to practice doing more of:
1. Breathing. We’re teaching our daughter to utilise this neat little trick when she gets worked up, or finds it difficult to switch off at bedtime. I have to say, though, that remembering to take deep, real belly-deep, breaths is so important for me as well. Because parenting isn’t always smooth sailing, and because parents are just human too, with real emotions and annoyingly human reactions. So when the going gets tough, to avoid
going mental screaming or stomping out the door, some good breathing can do real magic. If breathing isn’t enough, it’s ok to take a break, to say you need to take a minute by yourself.
2. Once I have the breathing under control, I can move on to the other important aspects of mindfulness. Observing what is going on for my children, showing them that the emotions they are experiencing are ok, and helping them find calm routes back to
sanity their usual lovely selves. A serene, stress free home, where responses are thoughtful and calm, has to start with the parent. We all know that from their very first moment in this world, our children look to us as their teachers and role models. I don’t mean to say that children should not take responsibility for their actions. But they will learn to take responsibility in a calm and thoughtful manner when they see us do this. Everyone feels loved, accepted and calm.
3. More attention. Children need our undivided attention every day. It’s impossible to do this all the time, so I want to make a habit of just being with them before dinner every day. I’ll follow their lead, go where they go, observe and join in their play. They need this, they crave it, and thrive on feeling this real connection. They learn that they are valued, and grow up valuing others. It’s just as much in it for me too, as I can bask in their love and happiness. Some days things will get in the way, or we end up in a tangle of difficult emotions instead of serenity. Breathe. Start again.
4. Apologise. Yes, often it’s us, the adults, who have said something we then regret. I try to always make sure I let my children know I’m sorry, and without making excuses. Just apologise. This can be hard if I feel incredibly frustrated or angry, and it’s very easy to make excuses (“I’m sorry I yelled, but it’s just that…..”). They just need to know that I’m sorry. This is how they learn to own up to their own mistakes, and that this is important making things ok again. And apologising actually gets easier with practice 🙂
5. Play. Playtime is time for just being happy and relaxed. In my view, this becomes even more important for children once they are at school, where they have more pressure to perform all day long. With us, they should be able to just recharge and be themselves, play whatever comes to mind. Experts tell us how important play is, that it encourages children to be brave, to feel capable, and to really connect with their family. They will feel more positive about themselves and believe in themselves.
I want my children to feel valued, loved and connected. And seeing my lovely girl going through a roller coaster of emotions, I want her to feel that she counts, that I’m always here for her, and that I think she’s wonderful in all her endeavours.