Mindful Living & Leadership
Let’s face it…life is stressful considering all the demands of daily activities and responsibilities! Balancing out these demands can create a hectic life that never seems to let up. Supporting children and teens with emotional difficulties and trauma can create a cycle of reactivity that is just more frustrating for everyone involved. If you find yourself living on autopilot, easily frustrated and quick to react…you’ve come to the right place!
Mindful Living is the intentional application of skills in order to reduce the sense of urgency and chaos that we frequently feel when under pressure. It is a lifestyle that includes paying attention in the present moment, feeling calm, and less urgency. Who wouldn’t want that?!? Mindful living can be applied to many of the stressful areas of life including parenting, leadership, relationships, communication, and eating.
You know the cycle! Tensions are high and tempers flare leading to tantrums and meltdowns! Every parent has experienced this in the most inconvenient of times and sometimes in public! The emotional meltdown that the child experiences creates more frustration or anxiety in the parent and the cycle continues.
Mindful parenting helps support the parent to be non-reactive to tantrums and emotional meltdowns. Skills and strategies support the parent to be present and observe the volcanic eruption without reaction. The parent stays calm, supports the child, labels the feelings, and is able to wait for the clouds to roll on by. Mindful parenting includes “discipline” that is collaborative in nature and guides the child to make positive choices rather than getting in power struggles.
Children who have experienced trauma and loss become easily upset, triggered, and emotional. The child of trauma can present additional parenting difficulties that are unexpected when love and acceptance is given. Parents who are responsible for the emotional well-being of these children face great challenges. Often times a cycle of reactivity between parent and child develops that becomes difficult to manage. Mindful parenting for the traumatized child includes specialized skills for supporting children of trauma in their toughest moment.
Parents, teachers, and therapists who support the children in their lives are leaders just by the very nature of their relationship with the child. They are the adult in the relationship and have significant influence in the child’s life. Children who reject adult influence and tough to reach are in need of adults with mindful leadership skills.
Mindful leadership skills allow the adult to be present to the child’s experience without judgement or pressure to reach a certain outcome. This approach seems to defy logic considering adults are supposed to have all the answers and be in control. Here is the logic…. Children who have experienced trauma are seeking control of their experience in order to gain safety. If they are given a little control in an interaction with an adult, it can signal that they are safe and their needs are recognized. Don’t worry…it doesn’t mean that the child is allowed to do whatever and whenever! It just means that flexibility in the adult and recognition of the child’s current emotional state and willingness to be open to hearing the child’s perspective.
Mindful leadership skills also help support parents and professionals in interactions regarding the child. I’m sure most parents that have been called into a meeting about their child’s behavior know the reactivity that is normal in this situation. By using mindful leadership skills, there can be more clear thinking, less reactivity, and openness to solutions.
And finally…we come to the battle ground of eating! Spending quality time together over a meal can quickly be thrown off by picky eaters and power struggles. Children who have experienced significant attachment disruptions can have a very difficult relationship with food. Sometimes these children hide or hoard food, eat until they vomit, or steal food. As a result, food and eating can become a point of conflict between parent and child.
Mindful eating can help support both adults and children to develop a healthy relationship with food. Parents that struggle with emotional eating may be at far greater risk of also experiencing difficulties setting limits with children and supporting them to develop healthy eating behaviors. Children are also able to experience an improved relationship with food through attachment strategies, parent-child therapy and mindful eating interventions.