"There is a thunderstorm inside!" My daughter is angry, furious, and about to hit her brother who is nagging her. If I do not intervene, there will be tears and shouting. I want to stay out of the fight, but I realise that they are still too young to solve it on their own.
Does this sound familiar? Your children arguing, fighting, quickly reaching a point of no return, one harsh word follows another, and one second later, they are shouting or even worse.
As a mother, these situations trigger so many emotions and thoughts inside of me ("Here we go again", "Why don't they learn?", "I told them so many times that hitting each other is not an option."), that it can be really difficult to stay calm, present and kind.
There is a thunderstorm blowing inside of me as well, and even my mindfulness practice of many years might not help right away. So much depends on how I feel at a critical moment like this. If I am tired, out of balance or unwell (because I did not eat well or did not allow myself regular breaks from work during the day), I have much less patience and empathy than I would like to have.
The importance of self-care
More and more do I realise that it is my responsibility to care for myself, to be able to be the mother I want to be. It does make a difference what I eat or drink. It does make a difference if I prioritise good sleep or not. It does make a difference if I grant myself some downtime during the day.
However, knowing what is good for me and actually doing it, can be two very different things. And then the inner critic wakes up and contributes to the storm inside: "You really should know better!"
Maybe you are familiar with this pattern? Getting to know more and more the roots of your wellbeing and at the same time the difficulty in actually implementing the right steps into your daily life. Habits and conditioning can be two very strong obstacles in our way to inner balance and conscious living.
Then again, mindfulness is a practice, something we have to repeat again and again, so that this state of being mindful becomes a trait. "What you practice, grows stronger." Practicing mindfulness, coming home to being, coming home to the body, coming home to this particular moment, will strengthen the ability to meet a challenging moment with kindness and openness. There may still be thoughts such as "Why again?!", and these may trigger emotions of frustration and anger, but if I can recognise these thoughts and not follow the story they are telling, I can acknowledge this moment for what it is: unique.
In daily life there are numerous opportunities to practice, and my children are wonderful mindfulness teachers. Every day (and sometimes also night) there is a chance to cultivate openness, empathy, kindness, recognising thought streams and patterns, and very often self-compassion. Sometimes I manage to be with what is, sometimes I don't. This is life, and it comes in waves.
Mindfulness with children
I also try to teach my children about the amazing power of knowing themselves. I teach them about the "weather patterns" inside, so that they can acknowledge what is going on and see that emotions come and go just as the weather is changing all the time. In the evening we say goodnight to the whole body and show gratitude for its hard work during the day.
I try to teach them empathy by asking "How do you think your schoolmate feels when you ignore his saying hello? How would you feel?".
Especially in the United Kingdom the movement of "mindfulness in schools" has shown interesting results and the potential to improve psychological wellbeing and attention. However, this is not the reason for me to practising mindfulness with my children. Rather, I want to show them the amazing potential in knowing themselves and who they are as a person and not being blown away by every outside storm or when not getting what they want. I want to show them that being kind and respectful to one another is at the root of deep relationships and that honest attention is the most basic form of love.
Having brought mindfulness into my parenting approach and toward my children has opened the door to a deeper level of trust, connection, and love. "What you practise, grows stronger." I regularly practise kindness toward myself and my loved ones, being with what is (tantrums, fighting, but also snuggling and moments of joy) and openness and curiosity, especially when listening to my children – trusting that the seeds I plant will grow and bear fruit sooner or later.