“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” Best selling author L R Knost knows a thing or two about gentle parenting and child development. But staying calm in the face of kiddie chaos is easier said than done. Yes, it’s our job as parents to help them navigate their emotional world.
But how, when it's pretty emotional for us too?
Let’s first consider why it matters so much. Indonesian author Toba Beta has it right when he says “a man of calm is like a shady tree. People who need shelter come to it.” I love the simplicity of this, and it is so true for parents and young children. They need us to be their shelter, their shade, their rock, their roots. They need somewhere to come where they are certain they can find comfort, reassurance and support. A steady, calm presence in the life of a child brings an endless list of benefits. And because children learn by observing others, if we can show them calm, we’re also setting them up with an incredible life skill.
So what about the benefits for you? We so easily get caught up in the busy heat of it all that we forget our own, often basic, needs. There’s always something to tackle: a looming work deadline, a school project, a poorly baby, a mountain of laundry and bills… When we’re in a state of constant overwhelm, our own to-dos, and often our close relationships, get bumped to the bottom of the list, and we end up exhausted, resentful and snappy. If we can invite some calm into the mix, we’ll gain fresh perspectives, new choices and more energy. Anxiety will go down, productivity will go up and we’ll feel a greater sense of overall wellbeing. Just as for kids, the list of benefits for us is endless. Plus we’ll just be happier! “Happiness arises in a state of peace, not of tumult” - Ann Radcliffe.
There are lots of ways to get a mini dose of calm right now. You can take a deep breath, have a good stretch, take a step back for a new perspective, or simply get some fresh air. “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you” - Anne Lamott. But sometimes even these simple options seem to elude us in the chaos of everyday parenting. So how can we make some calm more readily available, without having to try so hard in the moment?
The practise of meditation has long been recognised as a way to live a calmer, more peaceful life. And with platforms such as Headspace leading the way, meditation now feels much more accessible than it once did – turns out you don’t have to sit cross legged in an Indian Ashram for months on end to feel the benefits.
You can start right here, right now, with just a few minutes a day.
There is a growing body of research around the benefits of regular meditation for general wellbeing. Regular practice can lead to enhanced peace of mind, greater focus and creativity, and stronger relationships. Less stress, less worry, more compassion and more self control. I don’t need to spell out how all of these changes could impact on family life – it’s another very long list of benefits. And what’s even better is that you don’t have to be doing it all the time – research has shown that the more you meditate, the more your non-meditative state comes to look like meditation, so that you can bring that same calm, focused awareness into everyday life. Great news for time-poor parents!
Before having kids I used to meditate regularly. It brought me all of the above benefits and more. Then I had a baby and it sort of got shelved as everything else took over. I forgot to remember how good it felt. Now I’m meditating again and it has had a positive impact on the whole family. We’re just happier. So I have taken my reflections on why it was harder to find time for meditation with the kids around, and created my own series of meditations specifically for mums, to tackle head on many of the issues that we face. Guilt, expectations, identity, confidence, control, instincts, relationships… another endless list! I look forward to sharing lots of these audios with you on YouTube.
Let’s be a calm, happy centre in this crazy, wonderful and often confusing world our kids are growing up in - they need and deserve it.
And do you know what? So do you.
Written for &Breathe Postnatal.