This post is a continuation of this list of techniques for cultivating calmness in our homes and in our families. As I mentioned in the first post, this is not the typical “quick fix” list of tips but rather tools and skills that can be developed over time to create calmness within and without. They are inspired by the book Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Usha Dermond.
Included with each technique there are simple ways to try these things out right away. Even if it’s not a quick fix, we can put these principles into practice and feel the impact of immediately, to the extent that we give it our energy and attention. Choose one or create your own. Curiosity and a willingness to experiment, observe and learn from our experience is key to conscious parenting!
There’s something wonderful about getting lost in a good story. Reading aloud to our children we can share this experience, giving us the chance to relax, set aside the day and connect with each other more deeply. Stories also give us the opportunity to share our values. By reading together with our children we have the opportunity to share with them vibrant examples of universal values like bravery, kindness and calmness, that can spark deep reflection and conversation. Children are looking for role models to imitate and through sharing carefully chosen stories and books we can give them positive examples to emulate and guide their growth even well into the teen years.
TRY: Start young and create a regular ritual of reading together, perhaps after dinner or before bedtime. Search out high quality books and stories (using tools like Common Sense Media or The Good and The Beautiful or The Read-Aloud Handbook) that represent the values and lessons you’d like to share. You might also like to explore this Life Skills book list from Education for Life:
Address Basic Needs
Good food, water, and sleep. These are some of the basic needs and any parent can tell you that if you get too much, or more likely too little, of any one of these is a recipe for a meltdown. Before we resort to consequences for poor behavior it’s worthwhile to reflect as to whether these basic needs are being met in a regular way. With growing bodies and brains children (even teens!) are even more sensitive to having these needs met. Also, don’t underestimate your need for these basics in order to be at your best and model the calmness you want your children to express.
TRY: Take a look at your daily schedule and routines and notice whether these basic needs are being met in the best way. Is there a need to get to bed earlier? A way to make more time for meals? Find a way to make one small change that will support you and your family. Perhaps it's an incremental shift in bed time each day, an extra healthy snack after school or a timer set to remind everyone to drink water more regularly. Keep it simple and just plan to make one small change to start.
Create a Regular Centering Practice
As we all know, we must be the change we wish to see. If we want our children to develop an ability to be calmer, we have to show them how. And as anyone knows, teaching a child a new skill takes lots and lots of repetition. The same is true for us as adults. To build a new habit we need practice. In essence, calmness is a matter of learning to control our energy, especially our reactive process and at first we need to practice developing these skills when it’s easier - not in the heat of the moment. This is why every single parent interviewed for the Conscious Families podcast says that meditation has been essential to their journey as a conscious parent.
TRY: Start with a short five or ten minute centering practice any time of day. Every little bit helps! Better yet, find a way to set aside a regular time dedicated to a centering practice. Perhaps take 5 minutes before you wake the kids up or 5 minutes after you drop them off at school for some deep breathing and stillness. Start small but keep it regular and then build on this. Find a time and place that makes it easy to get started and keep the commitment. If you’re curious about meditation as a practice in particular and want to go deeper and create a regular practice you might check out this 10 week course.
Looking for more support in putting these ideas into practice? Consider joining our 14-week Calm and Compassionate Parenting course starting January 12th.