You’ll never know the taste of an apple until you put one in your mouth. The same goes to understanding the love of a parent, the pain of divorce and experiencing mindfulness for yourself. Raising a child is tough. But to do that while dealing with the financial ruin and emotional mess that divorce leaves you with; you need to redefine ‘tough‘, and a couple of mindful parenting techniques doesn’t hurt.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of successful single parent in the making. No, I’m not. But if you’re hoping for your child to grow up in a healthy and peaceful environment, then we share the same goal. Despite claims that children who grow up in a divorced family tend to grow up developing social and emotional problems, I believe that it all lies with how much love and care we gave our child.
Mindfulness At A Glance
The popular definition of mindfulness is to be aware and attentive to the present. Being mindful also means not getting attached or reacting to our thoughts as we normally do. A simple analogy is like putting your hand into a flowing stream. While your hand is open and you feel the sensation of the flow, you’re being mindful. But when you attempt to grab hold of the flowing water, you are no longer so.
However, this simple concept often proves elusive to meditation beginners. You can read all you like about mindfulness but until you start practicing it, you’ll never know what it is. It’s not like a course where you can study and get yourself as a “mindfulness diploma“. It’s more of an ongoing practice of getting to know how your mind works without being judgemental.
Mindful Parenting Techniques For Single Parent
Regardless of how a marriage collapsed, it’s going to be nothing but suffering and pain for you and your ex-spouse. As much support as you can get from family and friends, the responsibility of raising up your child lies on no one but you alone.
These mindful parenting techniques could be the difference in giving your child a healthy growth amidst the mess and negativity that occurs after a divorce.
1. Avoid Hostility
Unless your ex-spouse has been abusive and there is a possibility of causing physical harm to your child, “brainwashing” your child to take one side against another is not necessary here. Regardless of what broke the camel’s back, both you and your ex-spouse contributed in some way, to the demise of your marriage.
While you may still feel hatred, regret or anger towards your ex-spouse, don’t deny the choice of love from your child. Your child is an innocent victim of a divorce.
Here’s where a dose of mindfulness really help to prevent you from reacting to every single negative thought and indirectly dragging your child into a conflict between two adults. Your behavior to your ex-spouse is a clear message of how you expect your child to handle his relationship in the future.
2. Establish Good Communication Habits.
If you’re trapped in the fast-paced corporate life, you tend to carry that crisp do-not-waste-my-time communication style back home. Or you could be busy getting your post-divorce life back in order that raising a child became more of a chore. “Get ready for school” and “eat your breakfast” became the only words uttered before sending your child to school.
What’s worse is when you asked about your child’s day at school while scrolling away from your smartphone’s social media feed. This lack of parent-child communication has become prominent in urban families but it is way more critical for the single parent.
I must admit that I’m occasionally guilty of not practicing what I’m preaching here. But this is also one area that I’m planning to improve on this year. This article from ZenGrowth that could really help in developing good communication skills with our kids.
3. Stop Pumping In Misguided Beliefs.
We tend to shape our beliefs of relationship and marriage based on our bad experience. And as protective parents, we want our child to avoid our fate. This could translate into educating our child to do the complete opposite of what we have done. You may find yourself suggesting to your child that “You can’t trust men” or “Women are only after your money”
It all stems from our past hurts and our attempt to find answers to what went wrong in our own relationship. But we didn’t realize that even subtly suggesting these beliefs to our child could do them more harm than good later in life.
Rather than stereotyping their learning from our mistakes and hurts, I’ll suggest educating our child to make the correct decision for themselves. The key is we have to bring mindfulness at it’s purest form into our parenting by being aware of the rationale of our thoughts before projecting them out to our children.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Child’s Emotional Need.
It’s tough to be a single parent. That’s a definite. But while you’re occupied in juggling work, making ends meet and putting food on the table, sometimes you may end up neglecting your child’s emotional need. According to a special need child therapist in Malaysia, Anna Tan, being sensitive and acceptance to each and every child emotions are important.
Just because your child is playful and keeps a smile on his/her face does not mean that he or she does not feel insecure. And before you reprimand your child for throwing tantrum, have you ever asked if there’s any reason deep down that causes that rather than mere disobedient. Children can be undergoing emotions that they themselves are confused about.
Developing good communication is one key vital part of addressing your child’s emotional need. Training yourself to be sensitive and aware of the tiny details in your child’s behavior enable you to really dive into the problems. Here’s one article by Amy Morin that listed 6 common emotional needs of toddlers you may want to take note.
5. Take Care Of Yourself.
If you’re still hanging out there, I have nothing but respect for you. Raising up your kids single-handedly is no mean feat. It means years after years of struggle, stress, and the occasional depressive spell that you find yourself in. You will also feel like you are facing a lonely battle against the world.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Seek out a single parent support group near your location or online like this and connect with other single parents. You’ll find that extra strength to persevere when you know there are others sharing the same motivation as yourself.
Don’t forget to give yourself a break you deserve. You’ll accumulate stress that’s harming your physically and mentally unknowingly. You can try simple workouts at home or listen to some relaxing meditation music before hitting your bed after a tiring day. A simple 15 minutes break could do wonder in replenishing your energy for the next day.
Here’s One Thing Mindful Parenting Is Not
If you think that mindful parenting is about creating a checklist and hitting some parenting goals, then you’re getting the whole concept of mindfulness wrong. It only adds up to more stress and frustration that a single parent already had. It’s what exactly what Hanna Rosin has failed to grasp when she wrote this article.
Mindfulness is about setting an intention and trying your best effort to be present and be aware of your thoughts. It’s not about demanding perfection in the practice because you are not perfect. It’s about saying “it’s alright that I made some mistake and I’ll try to be better the next time“.
Over To You
I hope this article has been helpful to you. Please share if you have friends who could benefit from this article as well. I’m a single parent but probably far from being a perfect one. If you have any other mindful parenting tips, feel free to share at the comment below.
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