Staying cool as a parent
- Mums Tips
- Parenting Skills
- Published on Saturday, 26 July 2014 11:50
- Last Updated on 17 July 2014
- Ramesh Manocha
- 0 Comments
In an increasingly pressured, modern world parenting can one of the most rewarding, transformative journeys we can ever embark on. It can at times be one of the most stressful and challenging.
Whether you have a baby, toddler or teenager staying cool, calm and collected is the best way to ensure that your responsibility as a parent, and your opportunity to enjoy the experience of raising your child, is fulfilled.
Importantly, there is growing body of scientific evidence to indicate that mum’s stress levels, and hence the stress that children are themselves exposed to, can have profound effects on the developing brain. Stress in early childhood can elevate the risk of future behavioural problems, mental illness and life prospects in general.
It’s easy to say “keep calm and carry on” but sometimes we need more than just poster-advice. There are already lots of blogs, magazines and books outlining the profound importance of support from friends and family, quality sleep, exercise and healthy eating. These have scientifically demonstrated benefits and are widely recognized and encouraged by health professionals. This stuff is all over the internet
Perhaps what I can contribute here is combine my experience as a parent and medical practitioner with my 15 years of scientific research into meditation. The experience of meditation, and particularly the unique experience of “mental silence”, that has been the main object of my research has given me a uniquely valuable perspective on my role as a parent- something I would like to share with you for the benefit of you and your children.
First, it is important to reduce stress and improve your mood. Children are born with inbuilt emotional reading skills, specifically developed to read the mood of the most important person in their life- mum’s. They know immediately when their mum is distressed can sometimes have a profound effect. Research has clearly shown that meditation reduces stress, this is widely known, what is not so widely understood is that the experience of mental silence is the dimension of meditation that is uniquely effective at reducing stress. Our research has compared mental silence to simple relaxation and found that not only is it much more effective at reducing stress than methods that don’t use mental silence, but it does so with just 10 minutes practice twice a day.
Our research has also shown that the reductions in stress are accompanied by substantial and equally profound improvements in mood, reductions in depressive and anxious feelings. Again, those improvements are significantly greater than what we observed in non-mental silence strategies. These are of great potential importance when we consider that mums, especially young mums who have recently given birth, are more prone to depressive feelings and low mood when experiencing the pressure of parenthood.
If we’ve ever wondered why children are usually, happy, un-stressed and free of blood pressure problems much of it is connected to their ability to stay focused on the present- moment experience. As we get older we un-learn this skill. Not only does this make us more prone to stress, it makes it more difficult to understand our children. Another thing that we have learned from our research is that meditation not just a stress management technique. Rather, it’s a way of shifting our awareness toward a more profound, dynamic and effective connection with ourselves. Contrary to many people’s perceptions, meditation is aimed more at getting us “into the zone” rather than being a way to “zone out”. This is important for parents because it gives them the ability to re-discover a skill that their children have in spades-the ability to live in the present moment. When we can see the world through our children’s eyes, we become more able to understand their emotions and behavior and therefore are much more able to work constructively with them rather than become frustrated or, worse, distant.
By developing our ability to stay calm, focused on the present and maintain a clear head, what is also known as “mindful”, our negative reactions are vastly diminished. A grumpy, irritable and reactive parent is precisely the opposite of what a child needs yet the stresses and pressures of the rat race often forces us toward this kind of behavior. Meditation is precisely aimed at reducing this kind of outcome, making it a powerful tool for parents. An important axiom of effective parenting is that when your child behaves innapropriately, don’t react. It’s often a challenge to find a way to respond constructively when our child is doing the wrong thing, especially when you are convinced that they are doing it to specifically annoy you, and it’s exactly these kinds of moments that it’s important not to react in anger. This doesn’t mean we should not correct or discipline our children but it does prevent us from lashing out in anger, which is almost invariably unproductive.
Finally, for many of us it’s only after we have our own children that we realize the value and power of a child’s innocence. By developing the skill of being in the moment, not reacting and cultivating a positive and happy outlook on life meditation gives us the ability to awaken our own “inner child”. This natural innocence that’s contained in all of us is a profound wisdom that enables us to not only understand and relate to our children, but also gives us a better way to engage with adults and the wider world.
My new book, ‘Silence Your Mind – Improve your happiness in just 10 minutes a day with this new approach to meditation‘, is out now, published by Orion (£10.99 paperback, £5.99 ebook)
Dr Ramesh Manocha MBBS Bsc (Med) PhD, is an Australian medical practitioner and leading authority in the practical applications of meditation. He is based at Sydney University where he heads up the Meditation Research Programme, part of the Discipline of Psychiatry at Sydney Medical School. Dr Manocha is the foundor of Generation Next, a national education programme that teaches professionals and parents about the mental health crisis facing young people and how it to deal with it. He is currently involved in developing meditation programmes for Australian school-age children.