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Mindfulness in the Family

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Mindfulness guides, counselors, and coaches are all too familiar with the feeling of “not quite good enough.” As spouses, parents, children, and members of the community, the team at JBPartners encounters all the same reasons to blame ourselves—and others—for being not quite good enough. And like everyone else, we often don’t recognize our missteps or misjudgments until too late.

If you want to be perfect, mindfulness won’t help. If you want to be kinder, more forgiving of yourself and others, more tolerant and resilient, more appreciative and grateful, better able to enjoy good times and overcome challenging ones, more willing to speak up and to listen, and a whole lot less stressed by your multiple roles—then mindfulness will help you and your family.

In a mindful family, each member recognizes that the others do what all human beings do: the best they can. Each member helps the others to that recognition and gives them the support and skills they need to find their way.

Here are a few mindful practices that help inspire kinds, forgiveness, tolerance, resilience, gratitude, enjoyment, and communication in families:

  • Wake up slowly. Stay in bed for a moment after you wake to appreciate the morning smells, sounds, and shifts of light. Do a body scan. Sit by your partner’s or child’s bed and talk about morning smells, sounds, sights, and feelings.
  • Create a positive experience around eating. Positive mealtime experiences are a factor in improving the health and well-being of children and adults. Instead of rushing through a meal, savor the different temperatures and flavors. Researchers concur that “responsive, well-organized, and well-regulated meals are related to more optimal child outcomes,” while admitting that this goal is sometimes difficult and that they do not know the optimum number of shared meals a week.
  • Develop a habit of giving. Families have different ways of incorporating giving into their lives, donating time, money, or expertise. Involve children in generating ideas for being helpful and giving. Even a little bit of giving wakes you up to the world around you and the people affected by your actions.
  • Express appreciation. Kind acts and kind words should spark appreciation. Be open about the things you are grateful for and look for opportunities to say “thank you.” 
  • Let the past go. Forgive family members when they fall short—because we all fall short sometimes. Forgive yourself for falling short—because we all fall short sometimes. Forgiving is not the same as ignoring. Listen to a loved one to understand their behavior, attitude, or expectations; communicate your own needs and expectations clearly; and come to an understanding. Then let the past go.
  • Enjoy each other. Mindfulness includes enjoying the pleasures of the moment: laugh and play together. Build a snowman, play a game of “I spy with my little eye,” take a walk, dance, feed the birds—appreciate the opportunities for joy that are all around you. You might make a feeling peaceful mandala together. 
  • Go outside. A University of Michigan study determined that just 20 minutes outside reduces stress—and time of day or amount of physical exercise didn’t matter. Just being around growing plants (and leaving electronic devices behind) decreased the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Take care of yourself. A stressed partner or parent is no fun to be around. Even one minute of peace and mindful meditation can restore you. Breathe mindfully for one minute. Hug someone and breathe with them. Close your eyes and think, “calm, peace.”

Many families have challenges that make mindfulness difficult. Perhaps a family member has emotional problems or addictive behaviors, divorce or remarriage have upended your concept of family, you are caregiving for both children and parents, and so on. You may need professional support and guidance to introduce mindfulness into your family.

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