Positive Parenting: The Power of Connection, Kristine Petterson

parenting tips, connecting with your kids, mindful parenting, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

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.

Pause

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.

Notice

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.”

Connect

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.

Positive Parenting: Mindfulness for Parents during COVID-19, Angela Johnson

mindful parenting, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic wellness publication

With COVID-19 here and affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, it is not surprising that many families are reporting heightened levels of stress. The pandemic is placing additional pressure on parents in many different way—from working from home, job insecurity, or complete job loss, to homeschooling, heightened behavior issues, and a lack of social connection. Although no two families are experiencing these challenging times in exactly the same way, we are all in some sense struggling through this together.

However, the struggle need not be for naught because as Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” Mindfulness is one of these great opportunities, as it is a powerful tool scientifically proven to reduce stress—the very thing we need! By turning our attention inward, we can still the waves of restlessness and worry in our active lives. Mindfulness teaches us how to do this.

As a parenting educator and meditation teacher, I feel especially called to share mindfulness with families now more than ever. I focus on both formal (meditation) and informal (everyday activities) mindfulness practices to help people learn to be more peaceful and fully present to their lives. I will share a few of these practices with you here.

Parents, this is a little reminder that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Peace begins within. Then it spreads.

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions . . .

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” —Dr. Amy Saltzman

“[Mindfulness is] the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here are some exercises for you to begin your practice today:

Sitting Meditation

Meditation is both a state of deep present-moment awareness, and a practice intended to bring about that state (Ananda Sangha Worldwide). There are many different meditation approaches and techniques ,but ultimately, the universal intent of all is to learn to experience life more from your center, and less from external input. The benefits from this practice are overwhelming, from stress reduction to lower blood pressure and better sleep. I recommend using a guided app or taking a class to get started. Make sure you practice in a quiet space. Sit up with a straight spine, as relaxed awareness rather than sleep is the goal. Close your eyes, gently lift your eyeballs and focus, and breathe. For the best results, a daily practice is recommended, even if for only a few minutes each day.

Mindful Breathing

The mind and breath are interconnected so that when the breath slows, the mind automatically follows. Therefore, taking the time to bring awareness to your breath can have an immediate calming effect. Try it and see for yourself.

You might also place a reminder somewhere in your home or at work that says “breathe,” or get in the habit of taking a few deep, intentional breaths at the start of your day, or when you get in the car, or before responding to your child’s behavior . . . the options are endless. Our breath is always with us, so it is just a matter of intending to notice it, follow it, and then feel the relaxation that results.

Walking Meditation


Walking meditation is an ideal practice for bridging the gap between outward activity and inward peace. It is best to walk outside in fresh air. Any amount of time is good. As you walk, focus on the natural flow of your breathing. Smile. Listen. Look. Feel your feet as they touch the earth. Walk tall, and with strength. Notice and enjoy the fresh air on your face and the natural beauty of the day that surrounds you. Be present with your body, mind, and soul on this walk, in this moment.

Mindful Nature Play

This one is especially enjoyable to practice as a family. Go outside in nature and play. Follow your child’s lead (inner child or actual child). Get down on his or her level. Be present to him or her, to this moment, and to the natural beauty surrounding you. Be free and have fun. Climb a tree. Build a fort. Roll down a hill. Follow a bug. Feel your connection to all that is and you will find peace.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating will not only bring you pleasantly into the present moment, but will also enhance your gratitude and enjoyment of food. Begin by taking one minute at mealtime to take slow bites and savor. Notice the smell, the texture, the taste. Think of where your food came from. Feel your connection to the earth in each bite. Be silent and grateful for this moment

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress toward four priority early childhood outcomes.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.