Developing Self-Awareness as a Parent
For parents, being self-aware is key for connecting to their kids. When parents aren’t self-aware, they might get caught up in their own emotions instead of being present with their children. They also might not recognize that they’re unconsciously repeating the patterns of their own childhoods in their parenting today.
As Carla Naumburg, Ph.D, writes in her book Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, “The coping skills and autonomic responses we develop over the years are like the air we breathe.
Self-awareness helps parents make intentional choices. Naumburg notes, “Quite simply, the more self-aware we are, the more likely we are to behave in ways that are congruent with who we want to be and how we want to interact with the people in our lives, including our children.”
Below are tips and insights for developing self-awareness from Naumburg’s book.
1. Practice mindfulness.
According to Naumburg, a social worker and author of the Psych Central blog “Mindful Parenting,” the best way to enhance self-awareness is to pay attention to yourself with curiosity and kindness. For instance, she suggests enrolling in a meditation course.
She also suggests readers simply listen. Sit or lie down. Close your eyes, or keep them open. Take several deep, full breaths. Focus your attention on the sounds surrounding you.
2. Talk to family members.
Again, delving into your past experiences helps you better understand your current reactions. In fact, it’s common for parents to react to their own childhoods when they’re with their kids (instead of experiencing their kids in the present moment).
3. Pay attention to your triggers.
Consider which people, events, stressors or foods trigger you (and spark the very behaviors you are trying to change).
For Naumburg, exhaustion, a looming work deadline, a crash after a sugar high or a family crisis trigger her to yell at her kids. When she becomes aware of any of these triggers, she slows down, puts away her smartphone (and any other distractions) and takes a whole lot of intentional breaths.
4. Pay attention to your body.
When your body is tense or tired, it’s very easy to take that out on your kids. And you might not even realize you’re doing it.
According to Naumburg, we store emotions in our bodies. Paying attention to your body — and pinpointing the tension in your shoulders or the tightness in your chest — helps you notice your emotions.
5. Keep a journal.
Journaling helps you make connections and spot patterns. Naumburg gives the example of realizing that her tough afternoon with her kids might’ve been the result of an unfinished work project.
6. See a therapist.
A good therapist can help you connect your past to your present and develop healthy coping skills, writes Naumburg.
“Once we start to understand where we came from and where we’ve been, we can move from a place of ‘I’m a terrible parent’ to ‘This is the legacy I’ve been given, for better or for worse. Now that I am aware of it, I can choose what I want to do with it.’”
Source: PsychCentral | Developing Self-Awareness as a Parent, https://psychcentral.com/blog/developing-self-awareness-as-a-parent | © 2005-2022 Psych Central
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