So, what’s the answer to helping our kids to do less of the stuff we don’t want and more of the listening? The secret is largely to do with changing how we are communicating with our kids in the first place. Here are a few of the communication strategies I’ve used successfully in my practice with parents over the past 15 years:
- Encourage positive self-talk. Be kind to yourself and if you wouldn’t say it to your kids, don’t say it (or think it) to yourself.
- At some point every few months, set aside time to reflect and review your life. Have you got any goals? Is there anything you want to achieve or change? How are you going to do it? Without investing time to think about these things, nothing will change.
- Get comfortable with asking for help. Challenge yourself in terms of why asking for help is hard and try to work on this habit.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Stress less about your appearance, possessions, or parenting. The sad thing about comparison is that while we often compare against those who have ‘more’ than us and end up feeling unhappy about ourselves, the instances of comparison where we come out ‘on top’ (as the ‘better’ parent, or ‘more attractive’ person) inherently reinforce the unhealthy habit of comparing ourselves because these rare instances make us feel ‘good’ and the cycle continues.
- Going to the park and while your child plays, take a few moments to be mindful and notice the sensory experience – the sights, sounds, smells, and what you can feel for example. Simply spending this time being mindful can have a multitude of physical and emotional benefits.
- Teach your child mindfulness activities while you practice alongside. It might not be quite as relaxing as it would be minus child, but you might still receive some benefit!
- If you both find it enjoyable and it wouldn’t cause further stress, engage in some creativity with your child. For example, you could get the watercolours out and both have a go of copying a picture or creating your own.
Remember, we need to look after ourselves so we can look after our kids and model self-love and care. Get your thinking cap on, and start to prioritise you – every day.