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As the mother of a toddler, I’m in a unique space. The roller coaster of discipline has begun and I appreciate how time is passing quickly. Yet, I still remember what I thought motherhood would be before it was my reality.  Is it ever exactly what we expect?  Of course not. That’s the beauty of it. 

One of the biggest surprises - so far - has been realizing that I am constantly aware of my child.  Regardless of the task at hand, he is always in my consciousness.  There is never a “break.” I spend time away for work and enjoy evenings out with friends... but, he is always with me.

And, I love it.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Still, it was a surprise.  Which is ironic because part of my job as a yoga instructor of 20 years is to teach awareness.  I couldn’t have known how my yoga and, specifically, meditation practices would help me as a mom.  

Why meditation?

The benefits of meditation are well documented — less stress, more focus, improved physical health, just to name a few.  It can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to hit the pause button before life explodes.  Admittedly, there are other ways you can try to reduce stress or improve your health.  But, I’ve learned that it is meditation that directly impacts my parenting.  

Meditation enables intentional reactions

We set the tone in our homes.  When we’re stressed, our children are stressed.  When we’re anxious, they’re anxious. When we overreact, they learn to do the same. 

I’m not proposing a constant state of calm or lack of emotions.  That would be impossible and, honestly, boring.  It’s good for our children to see how we react in stressful situations.  The goal is to respond to our children with intent.  Meditation gives us the tools to do just that.

Meditation doesn’t make us automatically respond with calm wisdom. It teaches us to recognize our emotions, triggers, and patterns of response.  Our mind wanders and we train ourselves to come back to our breath.

Our kids can push our buttons like no one else.  When emotions start to rise, apply meditation techniques.  Recognize the feelings and come back to your breath.  Take those few moments and adjust your reaction. When pressing the pause button becomes a habit, you can respond with purpose.

Practice makes presence

Checking Facebook or responding to emails during family time is a given.  It’s unrealistic to think it won’t happen. Often, it’s the necessary side effect of a flexible or work-at-home job.

That said, just a few minutes of my undivided attention results in better behavior from my son. He understandably doesn’t like competing with my phone or computer. 

We focus on the present when we meditate — our breath, the weight of our body against the chair, the sounds and smells around us.  Apply that same focus with your child.  Sit across from each other, make eye contact, ask questions.  Everyone says how fast time passes when your children are young.  These mindful moments cheat time just a little and make sure I’m not parenting on autopilot.

Take a time-out

Even though my son is always in my thoughts, that doesn't mean we both don’t need occasional breaks.  Children need timeouts when they are upset or overstimulated.  We need the same thing!

Moms are great at taking care of other people, but often neglect themselves.  Like exercise or nutrition, meditation is about your health and well-being.  It’s the time-out that allows us to reconnect in our relationships, including the one with ourselves.  

Let it go

Our children teach us so many lessons, perhaps more than we teach them.  They can completely immerse themselves in a project without distraction.  They are trigger-free, with no agenda and only genuine observations and reactions.  They also have an amazing resilience and ability to forgive.  You can scold or get angry one minute and the next, their arms are around your neck for a hug.

Learn to forgive yourself the way your child forgives you.  If you over-react or yell, that does not define who you are as a person or as a parent.  Through meditation, you learn to realize that it was just a moment in time.  A few heated exchanges are not what define your relationship with your child.

The most meaningful lesson of my meditation practice has been learning to LET GO.  When you focus in the moment, there is no space to worry about the future or replay the past.  Meditation teaches you to release those anxieties and burdens.  Which will open the door to a more fulfilling experience as a parent.

Claire Mark, Co-founder / Chief Chill Officer / Co-Head of Teacher Training / Meditation Instructor

How has meditation improved your family relationships?  Have you taught your children meditation techniques? We would love to hear more about your experience! Visit Chill to begin or grow your meditation practice in Chicago.