Mindful Communication with Your Child
By Kara Matheson
Think of a time when your child said or did something and 'bang', you were triggered.
Where did the communication go from there?
Were you able to respond in a way that served you, your child and your relationship?
Or perhaps you responded from habit, in the only way you know, and the communication left you feeling disregarded, disconnected and frustrated.
14th Century Persian poet Hafiz says:
"You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare. Don't mix them!"
Many of the communication patterns that parents and children use with each other create frightening and unpleasant experiences. This may be in large part because when you are triggered, it is hard to think clearly.
Mindful communication practices can help.
These simple practices give you 'somewhere to go' before you get lost in habitual patterns of blame, judgement and criticism. You can begin with this self-connection practice:
- Notice what you are thinking: your thoughts might be full of anger and judgement, that's ok, you don't have to act on them. Take a deep breath, which will help you to calm down.
- Become aware of your feelings: this includes your emotions (angry, sad, confused, etc) and the sensations in your body (tension in face and shoulders, short breath, etc). Take another deep breath.
- Notice what you are longing for in this communication: this could be understanding, support, consideration, to be heard, etc. Take a deep breath.
Once you have connected with what is going on for you (and this might only take a minute or two), you can communicate this to your child with a request for what you need. It might sound something like:
"I can see how much support you need right now. I really want to hear you and care for you but I'm all mixed up at the moment. Could you give me 10 minutes and we'll talk then?"
Hafiz also says:
"You carry all the ingredients to turn your existence into joy. Mix them. Mix them!"
One such ingredient is Mindful Listening. We all want to be heard. Being heard meets needs for being understood, for mattering, for being accepted and loved. When we sense that others are truly listening, our fears and defences tend to soften, allowing greater connection, empathy and peace in our relationships.
Mindful listening is making a choice to:
- Give your full attention to what your child is saying. If you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to your child's words.
- Avoid interrupting.
- Focus on what your child is feeling and the life or longing behind the words.
- Respond with empathy. For example: "Sounds like you're excited about being included" or "I'm hearing that you're frustrated because you want to be able to choose what you do."
Mindful communication is a skill, and cultivating it takes practice, but the connection that can come from this style of communication is a beautiful gift to you and your child.
About Kara Matheson
Kara teaches Mindful Parenting courses and offers Mindful Communication Practice Days at her studio in Black Hill. Kara is a trained and experienced teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) and Compassionate Communication. Kara has also taught languages and communication at TAFE for over 15 years.