The year 2014 might be remembered as the year of the “mindful parent.” In her book “Mindful Parenting: Simple and Powerful Solutions for Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids in Today’s Hectic World” (St. Martin’s Griffin), Kristen Race, PhD, a psychologist, blogger and speaker, introduced the concept of mindful parenting and garnered headlines around the country.
In her book, Race wrote that she created the mindful life strategy based on cognitive science and positive psychology. Her philosophy aims to take parents and children from “Generation Stress” to happier, calmer, and less-stressed individuals by encouraging behaviors that reduce stress chemicals in the brain and nervous system.
Mindfulness itself is not exactly a new principle. The term is often used in yoga and meditation as a way to show that the practitioner is engaged with activity, whether it is deep breathing or stretching.
When it’s applied to parenting instead of yoga, however, mindfulness means being centered in the parenting moment and actively reducing stress. According to Race, many children and parents are overscheduled, bouncing from school to sports practices to music and dance lessons, then fitting in a meal in the car before collapsing into bed. The result is a constantly stimulated brain and central nervous system as the body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct is permanently engaged, flooding the body with stress chemicals. This can lead to:
- Attention difficulties
- Impulse control problems
- Social struggles
Instead of living in a constant state of agitation, Race writes that parents should look for ways to reduce stress and the sense of racing from event to event. Instead, she counsels parents to live in the moment. The result, she says, will be:
- Increased focus
- Conflict resolution skills
- Improved response to difficult situations
- Increased empathy
Race’s mindfulness solutions include “Brain Coolers,” where parents and families engage in activities to be more peaceful, such as hiking or looking at the stars.
While mindfulness has many supporters, some experts are concerned that mindful parenting is swapping one concern for the next. In her Slate article “Mindful Parenting: Just Another Standard That Parents Can Fail to Meet,” Hanna Rosin says that mindful parenting gives parents “more goals they are failing to meet” because they may feel discouraged or negatively if they do not encourage their children to breathe, meditate or think about what they’re doing in a day. In short, just living their lives may not leave enough time to be mindful.
- Mindful parenting is a practice that involves living in the present, not focusing excessively on the future.
- Dr. Kristen Race, a psychologist and author of Mindful Parenting, calls today’s kids “Generation Stress.”
- Through mindfulness, Dr. Race believes parents and kids can live with less anxiety and better coping mechanisms.
- Critics believe mindful parenting doesn’t help parents meet their children’s goals.