Parenting through the ups-and-downs of our pandemic times can be quite challenging, with ever-changing situations—school open, school closed; mask on, mask off; quarantines on or off, shortened or lengthened, along with all of our health concerns, and loss of loved ones, in-person connection, social activities, and more. It can really take its toll on us, our children, and our parenting.
Perhaps you started 2022 out with hopes of building more connection with your kids, or having more peace in your life and household, but have since found yourself tearing your hair out at some point in the day, or cramming in all those needed chores and collapsing exhausted at night. Yet connecting mindfully can make all the difference in enjoying our lives and relationships despite the challenges.
What is this whole connection thing, really? While connection is described as a link or relationship between people, ideas or things, I like to quote Dr. Brené Brown in my Mindful Parenting program: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
This connection business is powerful stuff.
I resisted it for a long time thinking I just didn’t have time or energy for one more thing. Now I know that connection is not something extra you have to do; it’s just making a choice to do all the things differently. Whether it’s family dinner, scrubbing your shrieking child’s hair in the bath (we’ve all been there, right?), buying groceries, pumping gas, or even cleaning house. We can rush through our whole day feeling resentful and undone, or we can take each step with love, looking for magical moments to connect with self and others.
It’s helpful to acknowledge that, at first, creating deep mindful connection habits takes work, focus, and awareness throughout your day-to-day grind. For me, it also requires a commitment to reversing downward “should spirals” so that I can put the stuff of life on hold to truly see and be seen. I used to think some people were just born into a life of calm and ease and deep eye-gazing, and other people (like me) were born running around like chickens with their heads cut off and never really seeing anything other than the next check box on the never-ending to-do list.
What I’ve learned is that connecting meaningfully is a muscle you build. Step by step, I found I was able to apply strategies to my relationships with myself, partner, friends, kids, and clients that cultivated connection and deepened the fun we had. I took lots of detours on this journey, so I’ve broken down what I feel is the easiest path to powerful connection here for you.
Slowing down is key, and also really hard to do if you’re not in the habit. I actually had to get ridiculously deliberate about making space for connection, but now the practices that felt difficult and disjointed are comfortable, and I feel irritation and resistance when I don’t stick to them.
It might look like:
• Setting a timer several times a day to just check in with your breath or to put your hand on your chest to see if you can feel your heartbeat.
• Making a sign to put up in rooms where you usually feel rushed and frustrated (for me it’s the kitchen) that says “Stop. Breathe. What about life is beautiful right now?”
• Putting your phone on its charger for a few hours each day so you can connect with certain tasks and people without distraction.
Check in with what you are thinking and feeling when the timer goes off or you see that sign. Are you frantic and weighed down by the dozens of tasks on your list? Exhausted by the never-ending work of keeping up appearances?
It might look like:
• “I’m overwhelmed by all that I have to do today.”
• “I feel hungry or thirsty or need to move my body right now.”
• “I’m feeling really lonely, yet I’m surrounded by people.”
• “I’m holding my breath, rushing from one thing to the next, as if that will help me go faster.”
Make a conscious connection to what you want to be thinking and feeling in this moment—you don’t have to change what you’re doing. Keep chopping veggies or mopping the floor and look for something kinder, easier, and more joyful to connect to in that moment.
It might look like:
• Shifting from hate-cleaning to connection cleaning—turn on some tunes, take a deep breath, and sparkle up the home you love.
• Asking loud obnoxious children to play a game outside while you breathe easy and enjoy making dinner in peace and quiet.
• Calling your grumpy child (or partner for that matter) over for a hug and a deep breath. Bonus points if you do it without saying a word—just smile and look them in the eye.
Will they think you’ve been smoking something?
It’s possible. And honestly, these practices can provide a wonderful rush. The hormones created by connection are the real deal and don’t cost anything. I cringe to think about how much beauty and sweetness I missed when I was focused on the miserable acts of doing, cleaning, and box-checking. I know I tend to get distracted by the never-ending emails, errands, and obligations, but that I’m going to do the work to slow down and connect to the everyday magic along the way.
Petterson lives in Moscow, Idaho with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist, and mindful parenting educator. She can be contacted via her website at http://www.kristinepetterson.com.
Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.