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    Presence and Mindfulness

    The new year always brings a certain degree of reflection. Where have we come, where are we going, and what are our resolutions for a “better” year? Being thoughtful and having goals is important no doubt. At the same time, most of us spend an unhelpful amount of time focusing on the past or the future without allowing ourselves the luxury of being in the present. I find this particularly true when it comes to parenting. Through my own experiences and as a psychologist, I know we all want what is best for our kids. But usually, we end up thinking more about what that means in the long-term, rather than focusing on how to do that in the short-term.

    How can we truly set our children up for success? Regulating emotions and tolerating distress are so essential to good mental health. And the key to this lies in allowing ourselves to be in the moment. I know it is easier said than done, particularly these days! I am sure I am not alone in saying that socializing and extracurriculars seem to be zooming full speed ahead lately. I thought the pandemic would have taught us to slow down, but it feels like we are trying to make up for lost time instead!

    This is where mindfulness comes in. Easy in principle, difficult in practice. We have a few great posts that have already discussed these ideas and they are reshared here for easy reference:

    To summarize, here are 4 quick tips to think about.

    1. Never underestimate the importance of breathing. Our body can play tricks on us. We have physiological responses to emotions, even when we don’t want to (our kids do too)! So we need to stop. Label the feeling. Take deep breaths. Deep deep belly breaths. Many of them. This models good coping for our children, but more importantly it grounds us. And when we are calm and present, we can better connect with our child in their moment of need.
    2. Use your five senses. When you notice you are spiraling and need to get into the moment, think about what is around you. What do you see, what do you smell, what do you hear, what can you touch, and what do you taste? Thinking about these things can really centre us. And again, centred parents can centre kids.
    3. Have a routine. Being flexible and spontaneous is wonderful; but it is also helpful for kids to have a morning plan, homework plan, screen time plan, and/or sleep plan. It allows them to know what to expect, so they can stay in the here and now, rather than overthinking about the past or future. Be predictable as best you can.
    4. Don’t forget to sleep. There are more and more research studies talking about the impact of sleep on our mental health. Mindfulness can be especially helpful in fostering good sleep habits. Check out this post for some great tips. Where is the Snooze Button?

    About Susan Lambert, Ph.D., C.Psych.

    Susan L. Lambert, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist with extensive training in the psychological assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and families. She has a wealth of experience providing support to youth and their families struggling with a range of mental health difficulties. Her experiences include assessing and treating anxiety, depression, emotion regulation issues, attentional difficulties, anger management problems, school issues, parent-child relationship conflict, adjustment difficulties, and trauma.